Sheep Killing False Pastors

Gotta thank Phil Johnson for the timely piece:

Just now I was doing some reading in preparation for a message on Sunday, and I picked up one of my favorite sources of pithy comments on the gospels—J. C. Ryle’s Expository Thoughts on the Gospels (vol 2). In his comments on John 10, Ryle makes a Pyro-worthy observation regarding “our Lord’s strong language about the false teachers of the Jews. . . .” Ryle writes:

Those who think that unsound ministers ought never to be exposed and held up to notice, and men ought never to be warned against them, would do well to study this passage. No class of character throughout our Lord’s ministry seems to call forth such severe denunciation as that of false pastors. The reason is obvious. Other men ruin themselves alone: false pastors ruin their flocks as well as themselves. To flatter all ordained men, and say they never should be called unsound and dangerous guides, is the surest way to injure the Church and offend Christ.

Arminianism: The Reformed Concensus Is That It Is Works Based

In my response to asdkjf oiupij concerning his attack of me as being un-Christian for my attack of Jeff Maness, I made the assertion that Arminianism is a works based religion. For which oiupij claimed that I was ignorant. So also did the less than credible Doulos Christou.
As James White rightly points out in the following video, the early reformers viewed Arminianism as a “popeless return to Roman Catholicism.”

Arminius himself defended his doctrine of works salvation as being compatible with the Reformed view. However, the kind of grace that Arminius was dealing was something quite foreign to Scripture. In his view, indeed, the propitiatory work of Christ provided righteousness. But Arminius was clear that it was his works by which he would be judged. Yes, he claimed, that it is only because of the work of Christ that his works could stand as righteousness. That however is not the means by which we are justified. We are justified by the righteousness of Christ, by his works and his works alone. According to Arminius, to stand before God would be impossible except for the propitiatory work of Christ but the grace that is extended is not the imputed righteousness of Christ through faith, but the ability to perform righteous works which are judged by God and by that means is a man justified.

The Arminian arguer will contest that. James White points out, that in Arminianisms, anyone who fulfills certain requirements is justified. That is not Chrisitanity. We are justified through faith. And Arminius in his typical double-tongued way, using the right words and twisted logic falls short of that:

ARTICLE XXV (V.)
The whole of that in which we appear before God, justifies us. But we appear before God, not only by Faith, but also by Works. Therefore, we are justified before God, not only by Faith, but likewise by Works.

ANSWER
A man who is ignorant of those things which are here the order of the day, and who reads this article, will undoubtedly think, that, in the point of justification, I favour the party of the Papists, and am their professed defender. Nay, he will suppose, that I have proceeded to such a pitch of impudence, as to have the audacity to maintain a conclusion directly contrary to the words of the Apostle, who says, “We conclude, therefore, that a man is justified by faith, without the works of the law.” But when he shall understand the origin of this article, and why it is charged on me, then it will be evident to him that it arises from calumny and from a corruption of my words. I deny, therefore, that I made that syllogism, or ever intended to draw that conclusion, or to propound those things from which such a conclusion might be deduced.

This brief defense would suffice for all upright minds, to give a favourable interpretation, if perchance anything had been spoken which could give occasion to unjust suspicion. But it will be labour well bestowed, for me to transcribe my own words from a certain disputation on JUSTIFICATION, from which this article has been taken; that it may appear with what kind of fidelity they have made their extract. The Ninth Thesis in it is thus expressed:

“From these things, thus laid down according to the Scriptures, we conclude, that JUSTIFICATION, when used for the act of a judge, is either purely the imputation of righteousness, bestowed, through mercy from the throne of grace in Christ the Propitiation, on a sinner, but on one who believes; or that man is justified before God, of debt, according to the rigor of justice, without any forgiveness. Because the Papists deny the latter, they ought to concede the former. And this is so far true, that, how highly soever any one of the saints may be endowed with faith, hope, and charity, and how numerous soever and excellent may be the works of faith, hope, and charity, which he has performed, yet he will not obtain from God, the judge, a sentence of justification, unless He quit the tribunal of His severe justice, and place Himself in the throne of Grace, and out of it pronounce a sentence of absolution in his favour, and unless the Lord of his mercy and pity, graciously account for righteousness the whole of that good with which the saint appears before Him. For woe to a life of the greatest innocence, if it be judged without mercy! This truth even the Papists seem to acknowledge, who assert, that the works of the saints cannot stand before the judgment of God, unless they be sprinkled with the blood of Christ.”’ (Public Disput. XIX.)

Thus far my Thesis. Could any person imagine that the major in this article can, according to my sentiments and design, be deduced from it, “The whole of that in which we appear before God, justifies us;” how can this be deduced, when I say, “that not even this good, which the Papists are able or know how to attribute to the most holy men, can obtain from God a sentence of justification, unless He, through mercy from the throne of grace, reckon this graciously for righteousness.” Who does not perceive, that I grant this through sufferance and concession?” “God considers and esteems for righteousness all this good in which, the Papists say, the saints appear before God.” I yield this, that I may the more firmly confute them; and I thus obtain, “that not even that total can be accounted for righteousness, except graciously and through mercy.” This conduct is real malignity, and a violent distortion of my words; on account of which I have indeed no small occasion given to me of complaining before God of this injury. But I contain myself, lest my complaint to God should be detrimental to their souls; I would rather beseech God to be pleased to grant them a better mind.

The matter, with regard to me, stands thus; as if any one should say to a Monk or a Pharisee, who was boasting of his virtues and works of his faith, hope, love, obedience, voluntary chastity and similar excellences: “O man! unless God were to omit the severity of his justice, and unless from the throne of Grace, He were to pronounce a sentence of absolution concerning thee, unless He were graciously to reckon all that good of thine, however great it may be, and thus to account it for righteousness, thou wouldst not be able to stand before Him, or to be justified.” I declare, and before Christ I make the declaration, that this was my meaning. And every man is the best interpreter of his own expressions. But let it be allowed, that I have said these things from my own sentiments; was this proposition [of their fabrication] to be deduced from my words? If it was, they ought to have proceeded thus according to scientific method. They ought to have briefly laid down the enunciation which I employed, and which might be in this form: “Unless God graciously account for righteousness the whole of this good in which a saint appears before Him, that saint cannot be justified before God.” From which will be deduced this affirmative proposition, “If God graciously accounts for righteousness this good in which a holy man appears, then this holy man can be justified before God,” or “he will then be justified before God” The word “the whole,” has a place in the negative proposition; because it conduces to the exaggeration. But it ought not to have a place in that which is affirmative. Let this question, however, have a place here: Why have my brethren omitted these words? “The Lord graciously of his mercy, from the throne of his Grace, having omitted the severity of judgment, accounts that good for righteousness.” And why have they proposed only these? “The whole of that in which we appear before God, justifies us.” This is, indeed, not to deny the fact; but a pretext is thus sought for calumny, under the equivocation of the word “justifies,” as justification may be either of grace, or of debt or severe judgment. But I have excluded that which is of debt or severe judgment from my expressions, and have included only the justification which is of grace. Let these remarks suffice for the major proposition.

I now proceed to the assumption that they have subjoined to this proposition, which is theirs and not mine. It reads thus: “But we appear before God, not only by Faith, but also by Works” Then is it your pleasure, my brethren, to appear thus before God? David was not of this opinion, when he said:

“Enter not into judgment with thy servant. For in thy sight shall no man living be justified,” or “shall justify himself.” (Psalm cxliii. 2.) Which is thus rendered by the Apostle Paul, “For by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” (Gal. ii. 16.) But perhaps you will say, that you do not appear before God “by the works of the law, but by works produced from faith and love.” I wish you to explain to me, what it is to appear by faith, and what to appear by works; and whether it can possibly happen, that a man may appear both by faith and works. I know, the saints who will be placed before the tribunal of the Divine Justice, have had Faith, and through Faith have performed good Works. But, I think, they appear and stand before God with this confidence or trust, “that God has set forth his Son Jesus Christ as a propitiation through Faith in his blood, that they may thus be justified by the Faith of Jesus Christ, through the remission of sins.” I do not read, that Christ is constituted a propitiation through Works in his blood, that we may also be justified by Works.

My desire indeed is, to appear before the tribunal of God thus, [with this confidence or trust in Christ, as a propitiation through Faith in his blood] and “to be graciously judged through mercy from the throne of grace”. If I be otherwise judged, I know I shall be condemned; which sore judgment may the Lord, who is full of clemency and pity, avert according to his great mercy, even from you, my brethren, though you thus speak, whether the words which you use convey your own meaning, or whether you attribute this meaning to me. I also might thus draw wonderful conclusions from this assumption, which is laid down, if an accusation were to be set aside by retaliation or a recriminating charge, and not by innocence. But I will not resort to such a course, lest I seem to return evil for evil; though I might do this with a somewhat greater show of reason.

Arminius was desperate to preserve the free-will of man. That is why he must preserve the righteous works of man in some way. By saying that through faith the man’s works are made righteous by the gracious work of God, Arminius extends to man the ability to perform righteous works which are pleasing to God. Those works, he says, is what he is judged by and not by the righteous works of Christ. True enough, he includes a grace of sorts. It is not the grace which accounts a man righteous based upon the works of Christ, but only a grace which removes severity of judgement and by grace accounts man’s works as righteous and meriting justification:

They ought to have briefly laid down the enunciation which I employed, and which might be in this form: “Unless God graciously account for righteousness the whole of this good in which a saint appears before Him, that saint cannot be justified before God.”

and he will not obtain from God, the judge, a sentence of justification, unless He quit the tribunal of His severe justice, and place Himself in the throne of Grace, and out of it pronounce a sentence of absolution in his favour, and unless the Lord of his mercy and pity, graciously account for righteousness the whole of that good with which the saint appears before Him. For woe to a life of the greatest innocence, if it be judged without mercy!

It is not the righteousness of Christ which Christ by his active and passive obediences obtained for us that we are counted righteous and granted all spiritual blessing in heavenly places. Instead, the grace which Arminius has imputed to man is a renewed righteous ability by which man merits justification. It must be, according to Arminius, man’s choices. Free-will at any cost, even the cost of making Jesus’ sacrifice only a provisional atonement, a common grace which can be trodden under foot, must be preserved. That is why his position was condemned and that is why those who have followed that path are deemed, essentially, semi-Pelagian. Or, as James White rightly observes, it is a “popeless Roman Catholicism.

Obama Appoints Fascist Diversity Minister Mark “Idi Goebbels” Lloyd

An adminitstration policy Czar has been appointed as advisor to first White/black president, and as State Speech Schutzstaffel. Though we are told that he isn’t by the liberal media, he really is no different than Obama’s “not advisors” radical friends that Obama denied relationship to during his lying campaign. Who would have thought it?

To paraphrase “gettin swettin over Chavez” Lloyd: “I love mah man Chavez’s style. Jack boots and all. Taken o’r evytang and stuffin da mouds of the man with #$&!.” He went on to mumble something about if he can help Obama to birth that kind of regime here and collar the American people with gasoline soaked US flags, he will have honored and worshipped the One.”

Just Who Is Rick Serving

I said that I would comment upon just where Rick Warren leads astray. That will take several posts, but let’s begin.

Tricky Rick is well known for the fact that he chooses paraphrased bibles to work his slight of hand. He’s not much of a player. A really good waldo would use a scholarly translations to work his presdigitations.

Warren quotes out of the Living Bible:

It is he who saved us and chose us for his holy work not because we deserved it but because that was his plan (2 Timothy 1:9 LB).

Then says:

You were saved to serve God… God redeemed you so you could do his “holy work.” You’re not saved by service, but you are saved for service. In God’s kingdom, you have a place, a purpose, a role, and a function to fulfill. This gives your life great significance and value.

The verse in question actually says:

who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity

The context is of utmost importance, for it is not about what works we are called to. It is about the Gospel, what it means, and not about us at all. It is about Christ and what he has done, from first to last. Take for instance the word that the LB translates as work and which Warren capitalizes upon to bait his hook. The word is not work at all. It is not vocation either, it is invitation. And one of a particular kind, a holy one. And that is contrasted to the profanity of human works. To make it simple, this is the divine calling, a holy calling, which is particular to the elect and no others. It is the ancient covenant, and as the context goes on to explain, it is of an eternal nature, not one that is temporal and certainly not one that may or may not take place:

according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity

It is quite interesting what Warren has done. He has taken the works of God, God’s promises, and made them the works of man contingent upon the whether or not man, in time, accomplishes anything. But Paul is clear, especially so, that man’s works are not in any way involved in the issue of securing the benefits of Christ which have been revealed in Jesus, which he alone has secured once for all according to the Eternal Word.

Warren doesn’t just pull the wool over the eyes, he throws a whole rotted lamb in the face of truth.

It cost Jesus his own life to purchase your salvation. The Bible reminds us, “God paid a great price for you. So use your body to honor God” (1 Corinthians 6:20 CEV).

We don’t serve God out of guilt or fear or even duty, but out of joy, and deep gratitude for what he’s done for us. We owe him our lives. Through salvation our past has been forgiven, our present is given meaning, and our future is secured.

Apparently not. For Warren will, as we will see, continually make the death of Christ a meaningless charade because the benefits, all that Christ has purchased, may or may not apply. Warren believes, and teaches, that Christ can indeed fail to live up to the promises of his Father and of the promise of Scripture that when Christ appears he will bring salvation to all who wait upon his appearing. Apparently, according to Warren, salvation, doesn’t include the forgiveness of the past for in that future estate the past, according to Warren, will be under review to be weighed against the believer.

In light of these incredible benefits Paul concluded, “Because of God’s great mercy . . . Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service” (Romans 12:1 TEV).

We begin to wonder, then, just what he means by sacrifice. Because, if a person is rewarded according to the sacrifice, is that not merit? And Warren says that it is a person’s service by which he will be judged. If there is a judgement yet to be rendered for which Christ has not yet satisfied justice, then just how great is that purchase price of which Warren is so sure? Will Christ’s purchase satisfy for “our future… secured” or will we have to stand, guilt laden, before the throne of judgement begging for mercy, or displaying our good works? Warren may fool the fool. But who is the greater.

The apostle John taught that our loving service to others shows that we are truly saved. He said, “Our love for each other proves that we have gone from death to life” (1 John 3:14 CEV).

(Notice, Tricky Rick has changed paraphrased versions twice. Picking, one might say,  just the right flavor to lure the children into following.)

Is John even speaking of service outside the brotherhood? Was Jesus when speaking of the consummation? Well let’s look:

“And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ ESV

Well shuck-ens, he said brothers and was speaking specifically of his disciples. And absolutely he includes the brothers among those who do what is right, for what brother is there who is not received by “Well done my good and faithful servant?” The benefits of Christ include his works, which are always good, by which we will be judged.

How’s about John:

We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.

Seems John and Jesus have a different opinion about what those verses say than Warren or the CEV.

The CEV is rated as even more dumbed down that the TEV. What’s that make Tricky Rick?

If I have no love for others, no desire to serve others, and I’m only concerned about my needs, I should question whether Christ is really in my life. A saved heart is one that wants to serve.

Funny isn’t it that we take Peter as being saved when the Lord says that Peter will not be willing and will have to be lead by another to serve. Funny isn’t it, also, how the cookie cutter is whipped out time and time again. But is it the case that service is the mark of a true disciple?

Well love and service are not simply equivalents in Scripture. And, as there are differing kinds of love, there are differing kinds of service. But so the doubters know that love and service are not necessarily interchangeable:

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them…

if service

in our serving;

Service, we might say is iffy.
“What, you mean not every one is called to serve?” Well is every one an apostle? And what is meant by serve. Are all deacons? Does the bread maker faithfully serving in his vocation serve? Does the waiter? Does the mother tucking her children in at night?

You see, even though Tricky Rick has said that it is not a guilt trip, not a duty, the reality is that he shovels it deep and does not tell the people what it really is that he is shoveling. No matter how much he gives away, he has said of himself that he will have to stand and give an account. What happened to “Nothing in my hands I bring?” As we have discovered, Rick doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Wouldn’t it be better to seach the Scripture, prayerfully, to find what God’s revealed will is and go do what you know is right, rather than letting someone else tell you what you must do to be a true believer? How does Rick know what God has planned for one of servants over against another? Peter was rebukes for even questioning such. Wouldn’t it be better to have faith in Christ and have His righteous works credited to you as righteousness, rather than depending on your own works as you stand before God, daily, dying to yourself?

Paul, who Warren likes to quote but seems to understand so little, also gave us an answer that is so much better that Warren’s. We stand or fall according to God’s good pleasure, and if we judge ourselves by that standard then we will not be judged. Humble yourself under his mighty sovereign hand and he will lift you up. But, if you think you have to stand before him to be weighed, you will be found wanting, for you have rejected the only work of God that he accepts:

Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

Does Regeneration Precede Calling?

To finish the mini-series on regeneration in the order of salvation I would be remiss to not offer the opposite view from mine. For that purpose I present this quote from John Murray’s book Redemption: Accomplished and Applied.

This does not settle the question as to the order in connection with calling and regeneration. Is regeneration prior to effectual calling or is the reverse the case? There are arguments which could be pleaded in favour of the priority of regeneration. No great issue would be at stake in adopting that order, that is to say, the order, regeneration, calling, faith, justification, glorification. There is, however, one weighty consideration (a consideration that will be developed later on), namely, that in the teaching of Scripture it is calling that is given distinct emphasis and prominence as that act of God whereby sinners are translated from darkness to light and ushered into the fellowship of Christ. This feature of New Testament teaching creates the distinct impression that salvation in actual possession takes its start from an efficacious summons on the part of God and that this summons, since it is God’s summons, carries in its bosom all of the operative efficacy by which it is made effective. It is calling and not regeneration that possesses that character. Hence there is more to be said for the priority of calling.

I highly recommend this book. Murray’s treatment of the subject of Redemption is impeccable. Though we might not agree as to the temporal order, necessarily, we most certainly agree in the assertion that it is a monergistic work of God first to last and that regeneration precedes faith.

As I attempted to explain earlier, and my thanks to Dr Galyon for his question,the near proximity of calling and regeneration make the two nearly indistinguishable. I draw the distinction along the lines that Murray indicates, namely the efficaciousness of the calling. I prefer the reverse order. But here is where the subject gets fuzzy.

There is a distinction which needs to be made between the outward call and the inward call, between the Scripture as it is written and preached and the Eternal Word which transcends time and is exalted above His name but which is revealed in the word. As Paul states in Titus 1, it is the preaching of the word that makes manifest what was established by the Triune God, in covenant, before all time. We need to keep in mind that vital distinction lest we fall to the mechanistic view, making God one with the instruments that he has created to convey the praise of his glory. That God has established means by which the covenant is declared and its actual working by the Spirit in time needs to remain distinct, therefore.

What God does is hidden until it is declared by his creation. But that is the point, the creating comes prior to the creation’s declaring the wonderous works of God. To that I admit only that God’s work of regeneration is indeed creation, and for that God works through no intermediaries.

Though it is not the rule, John the Baptists’ regeneration was not in any sense connected to the word preached and must be considered when broaching this subject. It was, without doubt, connected to the Eternal Word though which God gives life to his servants, but he was filled with the Holy Spirit before he ever heard or understood the words of life contained in Scripture. The servants of the Eternal Word, that is, the things done on earth as they are in heaven, such as inscripturation or preaching, always follow the hidden things God does. And in the case of John T.B., the regenerated man precedes the Word incarnate. This is always the case. In that way, God’s Spirit first regenerates, that is recreates, then the effectual calling is experienced. John would later ask, “Are you the One?” That we might call it efficacious calling, I have no problem with that, as I have explained. That God works the work of salvation through the means of the foolishness of the preached word, I have no doubt. But, that it is through that which he creates is another matter, altogether.

As was stated before, it is regeneration which makes effectual calling effectual, and not the other way around. That we are begotten through the Eternal Word is not at question, yet the Eternal Word is not the Gospel. The word is not the efficacious agent, in other words. It is the testimony to the agent who is. God alone is the efficacious agent. The Eternal Word is God, in other words, through which we have the new birth, and indeed, the word preached declares that that is the Truth and enlightens the mind already regenerate. John Murray is right, what is embodied in the word is all that pertains to what makes regeneration regeneration. The substance of the word, or as he says, the calling carries in its bosom what it is that gives rise to regeneration.

If you would like to read a more full accounting by John Murray, I really recommend his book. Monergism.com has excepted this portion for us here.

Tricky Rick Warren Is Not To Be Trusted

Rick Warren writes:

“It is he who saved us and chose us for his holy work not because we deserved it but because that was his plan” (2 Timothy 1:9 LB).

You were saved to serve God. The Bible says, “It is he who saved us and chose us for his holy work not because we deserved it but because that was his plan” (2 Timothy 1:9 LB).

God redeemed you so you could do his “holy work.” You’re not saved by service, but you are saved for service. In God’s kingdom, you have a place, a purpose, a role, and a function to fulfill. This gives your life great significance and value.

It cost Jesus his own life to purchase your salvation. The Bible reminds us, “God paid a great price for you. So use your body to honor God” (1 Corinthians 6:20 CEV).

We don’t serve God out of guilt or fear or even duty, but out of joy, and deep gratitude for what he’s done for us. We owe him our lives. Through salvation our past has been forgiven, our present is given meaning, and our future is secured. In light of these incredible benefits Paul concluded, “Because of God’s great mercy . . . Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service” (Romans 12:1 TEV).

The apostle John taught that our loving service to others shows that we are truly saved. He said, “Our love for each other proves that we have gone from death to life” (1 John 3:14 CEV).

If I have no love for others, no desire to serve others, and I’m only concerned about my needs, I should question whether Christ is really in my life. A saved heart is one that wants to serve.

 

And also:

We are commanded to serve God. Jesus was unmistakable: “Your attitude must be like my own, for I, the Messiah, did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give my life” (Matthew 20:28 LB).

For Christians, service is not something to be tacked onto our schedules if we can spare the time. It is the heart of the Christian life. Jesus came “to serve” and “to give”—and those two verbs should define your life on earth, too. Serving and giving sum up God’s fourth purpose for your life. Mother Teresa once said, “Holy living consists in doing God’s work with a smile.”

Jesus taught that spiritual maturity is never an end in itself. Maturity is for ministry! We grow up in order to give out. It is not enough to keep learning more and more. We must act on what we know and practice what we claim to believe. Impression without expression causes depression. Study without service leads to spiritual stagnation.

The old comparison between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea is still true. Galilee is a lake full of life because it takes in water but also gives it out. In contrast, nothing lives in the Dead Sea because, with no outflow, the lake has stagnated.

The last thing many believers need is to go to another Bible study. They already know far more than they are putting into practice. What they need are serving experiences in which they can exercise their spiritual muscles.

Serving is the opposite of our natural inclination. Most of the time we’re more interested in “serve us” than service. We say, “I’m looking for a church that meets my needs and blesses me,” not “I’m looking for a place to serve and be a blessing.” We expect others to serve us, not vice versa.

But as we mature in Christ, the focus of our lives should increasingly shift to living a life of service. The mature follower of Jesus stops asking, “Who’s going to meet my needs?” and starts asking, “Whose needs can I meet?” Do you ever ask that question?

And he bolsters that by enslaving his adherents through guilt and fear:

At the end of your life on earth you will stand before God, and he is going to evaluate how well you served others with your life. The Bible says, “Each of us will have to give a personal account to God” (Romans 14:12 NLT).

Think about the implications of that. One day God will compare how much time and energy we spent on ourselves compared with what we invested in serving others.

At that point, all our excuses for self-centeredness will sound hollow: “I was too busy” or “I had my own goals” or “I was preoccupied with working, having fun, or preparing for retirement.” To all excuses God will respond, “Sorry, wrong answer. I created, saved, and called you and commanded you to live a life of service. What part did you not understand?”

The Bible warns unbelievers, “He will pour out his anger and wrath on those who live for themselves,” but for Christians it will mean a loss of eternal rewards (Romans 2:8 NLT).

We are only fully alive when we’re helping others. Jesus said, “If you insist on saving your life, you will lose it. Only those who throw away their lives for my sake and for the sake of the Good News will ever know what it means to really live” (Mark 8:35 LB; see also Matthew 10:39; 16:25; Luke 9:24; 17:33).

This truth is so important that it is repeated five times in the Gospels. If you aren’t serving, you’re just existing, because life is meant for ministry. God wants you to learn to love and serve others unselfishly.

I will expound upon just what is wrong with Warren’s lies but for now
listen to why the trajectory of Warren’s false gospel denies the justification which is by faith in Jesus Christ.

Ingrid Schlueter at Slice of Laodicea responds to Tricky Ricky:

At a time of unprecedented biblical illiteracy and rampant carnality among evangelicals, the last thing they need is to be told not to study the Bible. But if you aren’t working, you’re just a useless feeder in Rick’s world. And besides. If you actually do read your Bible, you’ll figure out pretty quickly just how off base Rick Warren’s social gospel really is.

Warren doesn’t want people to really study the Scripture- which is why he uses such poor translations in his deceptive approach. Ingrid is right, if people did pay attention, if they did study, they wouldn’t follow, nor endorse, this false teacher.

Or to let Michael Horton expound on Warren’s enslavement-chrisianity:


When Christians talk law (“How to … “), non-Christians know that we’re speaking their language. I guess that is why such preaching and teaching dominates in the church today, since “law” (however watered down) is perceived as relevant. However, it is only when we encounter God’s law in its full strength that we are knocked off our horse. Instead of being in charge, answering with Israel and Mount Sinai, “All this we will do!”, we find ourselves in the hot seat, the charade exposed, the spin unmasked. Church shouldn’t be a place where the old self is revived for another week, but where it is killed and buried and the new self is created in the likeness of Christ.

Even as Christians, the law (in its third use) can direct us, but it cannot drive us, except to either despair or self-righteousness. Christians are not purpose-driven, but promise-driven. Purposes are all about law. To be sure, at least in Christian discourse, some promises may be mentioned, but they are usually dangled as the carrot for fulfilling the conditions that have been laid out. If you did that with the real Ten Commandments-something like, “Do this and you shall live” (Lev. 25:18), people would catch on: “That’s legalism!” But the therapeutic version (easy-listening law) flies under the radar: “Hey, here are a few helpful principles based on God’s instruction manual that will help you get victory in your life.” Although Rick Warren’s phenomenal best-seller, The Purpose-Driven Life, for example, differs from the usual pattern of self-help books by insisting that we were created for God and his glory, it offers Fifteen Principles-all of which are imperatives (commands, or rather, suggestions) that promise a life of victory for those who follow them. That, I would suggest, confuses law and gospel. And that eventually leaves resentment of God, not delight, in its wake.

The fact that purposes are about law does not make them wrong. We need purposes! Nobody can live without goals. Yet purposes and goals are always something to be reached, to be achieved and be attained by us. They require tactics and strategies. All of this is fine as long as we realize that they are law, not gospel: commands and promises are both necessary, but they do different things.

Law tells us what we should do, whether we’re faced with the wrath of God (full-strength law) or by the fear of not reaching our full potential (the watered-down version). God’s promise, by contrast, creates true faith, which creates true works. The church father Augustine defined sin as being “curved in” on ourselves. While imperatives (including purposes) tend by themselves to make us more “curved in” on ourselves (either self-confidence or self-despair), only God’s promise can drive us out of ourselves and our own programs for acceptance before ourselves, other people, and God. While the Christian life according to scripture is purpose-directed, it is promise-driven. Both of our passages-Genesis 15 and Romans 4-bring this point home powerfully.

And since I am reaching back, Dr. Galyon has reached back a ways too.

Calvin: The Impossibility Of Flesh Apprending Christ

John Calvin in book 2, chapter 2 parts 18-21 of The Institutes of The Christian Religion would have us know that there is no spiritual discernment except that we are regenerated. As he makes clear in this statement at the end of the following excerpt from the Institutes:

The Apostles had been duly and amply instructed by the best of teachers. Still, as they wanted the Spirit of truth to complete their education in the very doctrine which they had previously heard, they were ordered to wait for him, (John 14: 26.)

As was the case with Lydia, the word of eternal life (1 Peter 1:23) has no effect except that the Spirit first regenerate the heart and opens it to understand the word.

In Calvin’s commentary on Peter, as he says, and as is quite clear from Scripture, despite what some commentators say, it is not the word which is the instrument of regeneration if what is meant is that it is instrumental and not one of the means by which salvation is accomplished. Quite the contrary. Unless first the Spirit regenerates and then illuminates the mind, no apprehension of Christ is possible. In first Peter, which is a section on sanctification not regeneration per se, dia, through, is used several times. Some say that dia proves that the word is instrumental. However, if it is the case that the preached word is instrumental in regeneration, then so also is the resurrection and Christ himself, where it is said by the Apostle:

…he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead… and …through him are believers in God…

In reality what is being said here is that it is according to the word, that is as Peter explains, this Gospel which was and is and shall always be, which proclaims the covenant, is the Eternal Word through which we have eternal life. It is not saying that the word is instrumental in the sense that it is the preached word that causes regeneration nor that it is necessarily at once with it, nor is effectual in any other sense. There is no intermediary between the creator and his act of creating. It is saying what is said in Hebrews, that it is by this faith that we understand what has been done. The word kata, according is a word like dia and can likewise mean in this manner, or accordingly, or through, by the means of, just as dia can. And Peter said that it is according to the Father’s mercy, not by the word that we have been made to be born again. In all it is a stretch to make the word instrumental in regeneration if these others are not also. No, they, as is the word, are descriptive of what God has wrought.

Men of old spoke as they were carried along by the Spirit. Obviously, the fact is that they were born again before they ever heard the words of their own mouths for no one except by the Spirit says Jesus is Lord. Therefore, it is does not follow that the Gospel is a necessary instrument, that is, instrumental, in the begetting by the Spirit. This is not to say that God saves without it, for it is by the foolishness of preaching that men are saved. It simply means that regeneration is not the effect of a secondary means, i.e., the preaching of the word, but is a miraculous first person work of God, alone. The word does not take on some mystical, magical potency of instrumentality, as is the case in the Arminian economy of salvation. Not even when the Lord himself preached it. No, not at all. Regeneration is the personal monergistic work of God himself who gives new birth, that is conception, new creation, to those he has known from before the foundations of the world. It is a new create by which he makes his glory known when and where he pleases, without first consideration to any other means exept as they testify to that glory. This is done so that no one gets the glory but the Father, alone, for having given to the Son the children that he brings into his kingdom, John 17. It is not the word that gives the Son the children. It is not the Son which give children to himself or his Father. Rather it is the word that proclaims that the Father has given children to the Word and done so to bring many sons to and for his glory. Yet, without the preaching of the Gospel, no man can be saved, of that we are assured.

Many Calvinistic believers hold that the word preached is instrumental in regeneration. That is, that it must be attendant in the regeneration rather that attendant to it confirming the working of the Spirit. But that cannot be. Indeed, except that a person is born again the word has no effect. None. As will be noted, until there are eyes, the light cannot be seen. And it is not the light that causes the Sun. Otherwise any and all who heard the light of the word would be born again. The word preached is not efficacious in any sense, as a first working. Such is the case as Calvin explains. The Lord’s coming did not immediately cause the regeneration of His hearers, nor did his word to them. In fact, in the case with Peter’s understanding of who Christ was, Christ himself said it was not him, nor his words, but the Father who had revealed the truth. Jesus said to the Jews that if they were of the Father they would know Jesus and his words. It is regeneration that precedes the word, and that from the father by the Spirit, not the word. Jesus did by his incarnation, preaching, and works in life declare what has happened. But as the Word was conceived by the Holy Spirit, so also is the word made alive in us by the Spirit, not by the word. It is first the Spirit, then the word. So also, until the Son is given, none can say they are his. That is as we find in Genesis. First the Spirit was upon the face of the deep, working secretly in the dark, then he said let there be light. Until there was a body to receive the word, no word was given. In the conception of the creation, the word spoken follows what is already produced. It is not the word which is at first instrumental, but the word which is attendant, testifying. through which the worlds were created, following such that as Jesus said the Spirit does what it wills and no one hears it until after it passes. And in Genesis, the light merely exposes the truth, it does not produce it. The word declares what is already as Peter says and as Paul said in his opening statement to Titus:

Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior

Preaching gives light to see what is already. It does not produces what is or the eyes to see it, nor does it play a part in it except to be the attendant witness to the facts. As Calvin says in his commentary on 1 Peter:

It is indeed certain that those who plant and those who water, are nothing; but whenever God is pleased to bless their labor, he makes their doctrine efficacious by the power of his Spirit; and the voice which is in itself mortal, is made an instrument to communicate eternal life.

While it is certain that the words of the Gospel are not them selves efficacious, the Word of God, as Calvin says, is. He tells us:

God alone is indeed he who regenerates us; but for that purpose he employs the ministry of men

So let me also draw this distinction: that God does employ instruments in declaring his glory to men, the use of those instruments and their efficaciousness in their own realm are not to be confused with the sole instrument of regeneration, God himself. The creator employs no intermediaries between himself and his creation. That is the testimony of Christ.

Enjoy the following encounter with Calvin.

18. The limits of our understanding

We must now explain what the power of human reason is, in regard to the kingdom of God, and spiritual discernments which consists chiefly of three things – the knowledge of God, the knowledge of his paternal favour towards us, which constitutes our salvation, and the method of regulating of our conduct in accordance with the Divine Law. With regard to the former two, but more properly the second, men otherwise the most ingenious are blinder than moles. I deny not, indeed, that in the writings of philosophers we meet occasionally with shrewd and apposite remarks on the nature of God, though they invariably savour somewhat of giddy imagination. As observed above, the Lord has bestowed on them some slight perception of his Godhead that they might not plead ignorance as an excuse for their impiety, and has, at times, instigated them to deliver some truths, the confession of which should be their own condemnation. Still, though seeing, they saw not. Their discernment was not such as to direct them to the truth, far less to enable them to attain it, but resembled that of the bewildered traveller, who sees the flash of lightning glance far and wide for a moment, and then vanish into the darkness of the night, before he can advance a single step. So far is such assistance from enabling him to find the right path. Besides, how many monstrous falsehoods intermingle with those minute particles of truth scattered up and down in their writings as if by chance. In short, not one of them even made the least approach to that assurance of the divine favour, without which the mind of man must ever remain a mere chaos of confusion. To the great truths, What God is in himself, and what he is in relation to us, human reason makes not the least approach. (See Book 3 c. 2 sec. 14, 15, 16.)

19. Man’s spiritual blindness shown from John 1:4-5

But since we are intoxicated with a false opinion of our own discernment, and can scarcely be persuaded that in divine things it is altogether stupid and blind, I believe the best course will be to establish the fact, not by argument, but by Scripture. Most admirable to this effect is the passage which I lately quoted from John, when he says, “In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not,” (John 1: 4, 5.) He intimates that the human soul is indeed irradiated with a beam of divine light, so that it is never left utterly devoid of some small flame, or rather spark, though not such as to enable it to comprehend God. And why so? Because its acuteness is, in reference to the knowledge of God, mere blindness. When the Spirit describes men under the term “darkness” he declares them void of all power of spiritual intelligence. For this reason, it is said that believers, in embracing Christ, are “born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God,” (John 1: 13;) in other words, that the flesh has no capacity for such sublime wisdom as to apprehend God, and the things of God, unless illumined by His Spirit. In like manner our Saviour, when he was acknowledged by Peter, declared that it was by special revelation from the Father, (Matth. 16: 17.)

20. Man’s knowledge of God is God’s own work

If we were persuaded of a truth which ought to be beyond dispute, viz., that human nature possesses none of the gifts which the elect receive from their heavenly Father through the Spirit of regeneration, there would be no room here for hesitation. For thus speaks the congregation of the faithful, by the mouth of the prophet: “With thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light,” (Ps. 36: 9.) To the same effect is the testimony of the Apostle Paul, when he declares, that “no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost,” (1 Cor. 12: 3.) And John Baptist, on seeing the dullness of his disciples, exclaims, “A man can receive nothing, unless it be given him from heaven,” (John 3: 27.) That the gift to which he here refers must be understood not of ordinary natural gifts, but of special illumination, appears from this – that he was complaining how little his disciples had profited by all that he had said to them in commendation of Christ. “I see,” says he, “that my words are of no effect in imbuing the minds of men with divine things, unless the Lord enlighten their understandings by His Spirit.” Nay, Moses also, while upbraiding the people for their forgetfulness, at the same time observes, that they could not become wise in the mysteries of God without his assistance. “Ye have seen all that the Lord did before your eyes in the land of Egypt, unto Pharaoh, and unto all his servants, and unto all his land; the great temptations which thine eyes have seen, the signs, and these great miracles: yet the Lord has not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this, day,” (Deut. 29: 2, 3, 4.) Would the expression have been stronger had he called us mere blocks in regard to the contemplation of divine things? Hence the Lord, by the mouth of the Prophet, promises to the Israelites as a singular favour, “I will give them an heart to know me,” (Jer. 24: 7;) intimating, that in spiritual things the human mind is wise only in so far as he enlightens it.

This was also clearly confirmed by our Saviour when he said, “No man can come to me, except the Father which has sent me draw him,” (John 6: 44.) Nay, is not he himself the living image of his Father, in which the full brightness of his glory is manifested to us? Therefore, how far our faculty of knowing God extends could not be better shown than when it is declared, that though his image is so plainly exhibited, we have not eyes to perceive it. What? Did not Christ descend into the world that he might make the will of his Father manifest to men, and did he not faithfully perform the office? True! He did; but nothing is accomplished by his preaching unless the inner teacher, the Spirit, open the way into our minds. Only those, therefore, come to him who have heard and learned of the Father. And in what is the method of this hearing and learning? It is when the Spirit, with a wondrous and special energy, forms the ear to hear and the mind to understand. Lest this should seem new, our Saviour refers to the prophecy of Isaiah, which contains a promise of the renovation of the Church. “For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee,” (Is. 54: 7.) If the Lord here predicts some special blessing to his elect, it is plain that the teaching to which he refers is not that which is common to them with the ungodly and profane.

It thus appears that none can enter the kingdom of God save those whose minds have been renewed by the enlightening of the Holy Spirit. On this subject the clearest exposition is given by Paul, who, when expressly handling it, after condemning the whole wisdom of the world as foolishness and vanity, and thereby declaring man’s utter destitution, thus concludes, “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned,” (1 Cor. 2: 14.) Whom does he mean by the “natural man”? The man who trusts to the light of nature. Such a man has no understanding in the spiritual mysteries of God. Why so? Is it because through sloth he neglects them? Nay, though he exert himself, it is of no avail; they are “spiritually discerned.” And what does this mean? That altogether hidden from human discernment, they are made known only by the revelation of the Spirit; so that they are accounted foolishness wherever the Spirit does not give light. The Apostle had previously declared, that “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him;” nay, that the wisdom of the world is a kind of veil by which the mind is prevented from beholding God, (1 Cor. 2: 9.) What would we more? The Apostle declares that God has “made foolish the wisdom of this world,” (1 Cor. 1: 20;) and shall we attribute to it an acuteness capable of penetrating to God, and the hidden mysteries of his kingdom? Far from us be such presumption!

21. Without the light of the Spirit, all is darkness

What the Apostle here denies to man, he, in another place, ascribes to God alone, when he prays, “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation,” (Eph. 1: 17.) You now hear that all wisdom and revelation is the gift of God. What follows? “The eyes of your understanding being enlightened.” Surely, if they require a new enlightening, they must in themselves be blind. The next words are, “that ye may know what is the hope of his calling,” (Eph. 1: 18.) In other words, the minds of men have not capacity enough to know their calling.

Let no prating Pelagian here allege that God obviates this rudeness or stupidity, when, by the doctrine of his word, he directs us to a path which we could not have found without a guide. David had the law, comprehending in it all the wisdom that could be desired, and yet not contented with this, he prays, “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law,” (Ps. 119: 18.) By this expression, he certainly intimates, that it is like sunrise to the earth when the word of God shines forth; but that men do not derive much benefit from it until he himself, who is for this reason called the Father of lights (James 1: 17,) either gives eyes or opens them; because, whatever is not illuminated by his Spirit is wholly darkness. The Apostles had been duly and amply instructed by the best of teachers. Still, as they wanted the Spirit of truth to complete their education in the very doctrine which they had previously heard, they were ordered to wait for him, (John 14: 26.) If we confess that what we ask of God is lacking to us, and He by the very thing promised intimates our want, no man can hesitate to acknowledge that he is able to understand the mysteries of God, only in so far as illuminated by his grace. He who ascribes to himself more understanding than this, is the blinder for not acknowledging his blindness.

If we were to sum this us perhaps:

In short, not one of them even made the least approach to that assurance of the divine favour, without which the mind of man must ever remain a mere chaos of confusion. To the great truths, What God is in himself, and what he is in relation to us, human reason makes not the least approach.

The Effectual Call Is Made So Because Of Regeneration

Even though, as D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says, in the order of salvation effectual call precedes regeneration, he makes it clear that it is regeneration which makes the general effectual. Many would have that the word in an instrument, or to say it another way, the word is instrumental in regeneration. Also, here. But as DMLJ makes clear, that is not the case. Regeneration is an immediate work of God the Father who applies the benefits of Christ’s cross-work to particular individuals by the Holy Spirit before the effectual call:

‘Well, why didn’t you put them in that order?’ someone may ask. It was for this reason: having started with the general call we notice that there is this division into the two groups and it is clear that it must be effectual in some and not in others. When you ask what it is that makes it effectual, the answer is, regeneration. But looked at from the eternal standpoint, they come in the other order, and what happens is that the general call is responded to by the regenerate. In other words, the call becomes effectual because they are regenerate. That is largely — a technical matter and yet I think it is good for us to have these things clearly in our minds.

Some, even DMLJ typically, would place the events temporally so close as to be simultaneous. Yet the fact is they are not. Except that one is born again, first, temporally, they cannot understand, and therefore cannot have faith. It does not matter how much time elapses between regeneration and effectual call, the fact is that it might as well be light years since regeneration is alone by itself a work which is hidden in terms of its occurring from the understanding of man. It is a work effectually worked by the Holy Spirit as Jonathan Edwards rightly says:

The word of God is no proper cause of this effect: it does not operate by any natural force in it. The word of God is only made use of to convey to the mind the subject matter of this saving instruction: and this indeed it doth convey to us by natural force or influence. It conveys to our minds these and those doctrines; it is the cause of the notion of them in our heads, but not of the sense of the divine excellency of them in our hearts. Indeed a person cannot have spiritual light without the word. But that does not argue, that the word properly causes that light. The mind cannot see the excellency of any doctrine, unless that doctrine be first in the mind; but the seeing of the excellency of the doctrine may be immediately from the Spirit of God; though the conveying of the doctrine or proposition itself may be by the word. So that the notions that are the subject matter of this light, are conveyed to the mind by the word of God; but that due sense of the heart, wherein this light formally consists, is immediately by the Spirit of God. As for instance, that notion that there is a Christ, and that Christ is holy and gracious, is conveyed to the mind by the word of God: but the sense of the excellency of Christ by reason of that holiness and grace, is nevertheless immediately the work of the Holy Spirit.

DMLJ similarly says:

However, you will remember that in the last lecture I drew a distinction between the act of regeneration and the coming to birth and said that there may be a long interval between the two. Now I suggest to you that both these texts I have quoted are concerned about the bringing to birth. And it is certainly the word that does that. It is the effectual call, coming through the medium of the word, that, as it were, brings the seed of life to life, so that the birth takes place. But if you keep in mind the distinction between the generation and the actual coming to birth, I think you will see the difference. The word is used, not in the act of generating, but in the bringing out into life of that which has already been implanted within.

At this point let me emphasize that the word of truth is integral in the process of Salvation. No one who is saved will be saved except through faith and that by the hearing of the word. But as Edwards notes, the word is not causal and in fact must follow regeneration so that the understanding can be enlightened by the word preached. Let no one take from this discussion that I am saying that one abides without the other, the exception being the infant and the incompetent. We recognize that John the Baptist’s regeneration was at some point before his natural birth, yet with the disciples there is no telling just when it occurred. In both cases the word of truth is both preached and received.

Enjoy DMLJ’s dissertation. Next up a look at what Calvin had to say about the same subject.

Effectual Calling

As we now proceed to consider in detail what exactly it is the Holy Spirit does to us in the application of redemption, I would remind you that I am not insisting that the order which I shall follow is of necessity the right one, and certainly not of necessity the chronological one.

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

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

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

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

Then, another one is to be found in 1 Corinthians 1:2 . It is a statement that you will find in other places as well: ‘Unto the church of God which is at Corinth to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints …’. it is not simply that they are called saints, they are called to be saints. And then, in that same chapter, the Apostle repeats it. He says, ‘We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness’ — then notice — ‘but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God, and the wisdom of God’ ( 1 Cor. 1:23– 24 ). Now there are people to whom the preaching of Christ is foolishness; they are the unsaved. But the saved he again describes as those who are called .

And let me give you one other example. Take that great statement made by the apostle Peter: ‘But ye,’ he says, referring to Christian believers, ‘are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light’ ( 1 Pet. 2:9–10 ). God has called them out, and because they are the saved, He has called them effectually. The call of the gospel has gone to many others but they are not the people Peter is talking about. He is talking about these people who correspond to Israel after the flesh in the Old Testament. He applies to them the very terminology that was applied to the Children of Israel, just as the Ten Commandments and the moral law were given to them. Peter uses the same words — they are the called, the ‘Israel of God’, called to show forth His praises. Now it is obvious therefore that in these people the call has been effectual; that is the teaching of these scriptures.

But there is another argument which states this perfectly. What is the meaning of the term church ? We are members of the Christian Church. But what is it — what does it mean? What is the connotation of the term? Well, the word church translates the Greek word, ecclesia ; and the ecclesia means the ‘called forth ones’. A church is a gathering of people who have been called forth, called out, separated out as the result of this call. As Peter puts it: ‘Who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light’. That is the meaning of this term church . And therefore that very word in and of itself is sufficient to establish the statement that there obviously is such a thing as an effectual call, because the same message has gone to others but they have been called from the world into the Church.

What, then, is the difference between the external call and this call which has become effectual? And the answer must be that this call is an internal, a spiritual call. It is not merely something that comes to a person from the outside — it does that, of course, but in addition to that external call which comes to all, there is an internal call which comes to those who are going to be Christians, and it is an effectual call. The contrast, therefore, is between external, and internal and spiritual.

Now I want to go even further and again give you scriptural proofs of the fact that there is such an internal and spiritual call. We have only looked at it in general in the scriptures that I have given you so far, they are simply designations, descriptions. So I want to give you scriptures which specifically state that this is something that happens within; and first of all I go to the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel. Incidentally, this particular doctrine is taught much more clearly, if I may use such a comparison, by John than it is by the apostle Paul. People sometimes tend to think that this is a doctrine conjured up only in Paul’s mind, but it is much more evident in John’s Gospel and particularly in this great sixth chapter.

Here, in verse 45 , is one statement of it: ‘It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God.’ That is it; God gave the prophet this information and he recorded it. There will be certain people who shall be taught by God Himself, not taught by men only but in addition to that taught by God, taught by the Spirit. Some internal work is going to take place. ‘Every man, therefore, that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me’ (v. 45 ). You see the people who come to Christ are those who have been taught of God, who have learned of the Father by the Spirit, and they alone. Now that is a crucial statement. But our Lord repeats it later on in verses 63–65 . His listeners have stumbled at His words and He says to them, ‘It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are Spirit and they are life. But,’ He says, ‘there are some of you that believe not.’ And John adds, ‘For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him.’ They had responded to the external call and thought that they were Christians. Here it becomes evident that they were not; they had never been taught of God. They had held on to the shell, the external word, and they had not got the Spirit. John continues, ‘And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.’ And the Father had not given it to these people so they did not come and they went home. But He had given it to the others, so they remained and they rejoiced in it. That is a proof that there is this spiritual, this internal call. And that is what makes the call effectual. Or take another statement. It is from Ephesians 1:17 . Paul prays for the Ephesians ‘That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him’ In other words we cannot have knowledge of Him unless He gives us the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation — they are absolutely essential. And that was why Paul prayed that they might have the Spirit, it was in order that they might grow increasingly in this knowledge of God. Without this work of the Spirit we cannot attain unto such knowledge. Or again, in Ephesians 2:8 , we read, ‘For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.’ And then, of course, there is Philippians 2:12–13 , where Paul says the same thing: ‘Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do …’ God does an internal work and it is as the result of that that we are enabled ‘to will and to do of his good pleasure’.

In 1 Thessalonians 1:5 , Paul makes a most important statement in this connection: ‘For our Gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance.’ Now if you read that epistle, especially the first two chapters, you will find that the Apostle goes on repeating that statement in different ways. He says that they received the word that came to them ‘not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God’ ( 1 Thess. 2:13 ). But what did he mean when he said ‘For our gospel came not unto you in word only’? It did come in words, of course, the Apostle was speaking, but that was not the thing that had turned those idolatrous Thessalonians into saints. What was it, then? It was that it had come ‘in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance’. It is this internal work that turns people from sinners into saints; this is preaching in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.

And, indeed, the Apostle makes a very similar statement in 2 Timothy 2:25 . Here he is telling the young Timothy how to handle certain people who were opposing him. ‘In meekness,’ he says, ‘instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.’ Timothy, says Paul, I want you to instruct these people who are opposing you and my reason for doing so is this: it is not to suggest to you that you by your arguments or logic can convince them. If God does not do this work in them, they will never acknowledge the truth, but if God does work, they will acknowledge it. Indeed there is a statement that we can find more than once in the Gospels and which we have already quoted, which really says it all in one phrase: ‘Many are called, but few are chosen’ ( Matt. 22:14 ). Take that especially in its context of the wedding feast. ‘Many are called’ — that is the external call — ‘but few are chosen’ — that is the effectual call.

So then, the next step which we take is this: we have seen that the Scripture teaches that the saved are the effectually called and that they are effectually called because of the work that goes on within them. ‘But,’ someone may say, ‘why all this?’ And the answer is that this is absolutely essential. Without this work within, no one would ever become a Christian; it is an utter necessity. Let me give you my proof for that. ‘For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit’ ( Rom. 8:5 ). Now the Revised Standard Version puts it like this: ‘They that are after the flesh are interested in the things of the flesh and they that are after the Spirit, or in the Spirit, are interested in the things of the Spirit.’ But the natural man or woman — those ‘after the flesh’ — are not interested in the things of the Spirit at all. They find them dull and boring and uninteresting. They regard them as a waste of time and they hate them. But they that are after the Spirit are interested in the things of the Spirit: ‘For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because’ — and this is the final argument — ‘the carnal mind is enmity against God’ (vv. 6–7 ).

Now that is a very strong statement but it is true. Men and women, as they are by nature as the result of the fall, are at enmity against God. ‘The carnal mind … is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God’ (vv. 7–8 ). To me that is a final statement. Men and women by nature are opposed to God; they hate God and they are not interested in Him, neither are they interested in the things of God. From that statement of the Apostle I deduce that the internal work of the Spirit is an absolute necessity before anyone can possibly believe in the gospel of God and accept it and rejoice in it.

However, let us go on and consider other statements to the same effect. Take the famous statement in 1 Corinthians 2:14 : ‘But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.’ That is a categorical statement, but do not suddenly become a philosopher and say, ‘Well, if that is true I do not understand this and that.’ No, let us face the statements of Scripture. We are dealing with things beyond our understanding. We are dealing with the inscrutable purposes of God, and if we are going to be foolish enough to put up our understandings or our philosophy against these categorical statements, then we deserve to remain in darkness. We must not approach the Scripture with such a conceit of ourselves that we think we can understand everything — we cannot. ‘Great is the mystery of godliness’ ( 1 Tim. 3:16
), and especially in this matter. But here is the statement that the natural man or woman not only does not receive it, but cannot receive it because these things are spiritually understood, judged and discerned.

Then there is the statement in 2 Corinthians 4:3–4 : ‘If our gospel be hid,’ says Paul, and it is quite clear that the gospel is hid to certain people; they hear it like everybody else but they see nothing in it, they do not want it, they blaspheme it, they treat it with scorn. ‘If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost.’ And who are they? They are the people, ‘In whom the god of this world’ — the devil — ‘hath blinded the minds of them which believe not,’ lest they believe this glorious gospel. Could anything be plainer? They cannot believe because Satan has blinded their minds ‘lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them’ ( 2 Cor. 4:4 ).

And then, finally, we find the statement in Ephesians 2:1 : ‘And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins’ — dead! You cannot have anything stronger than that; that is their position spiritually. All these are statements to prove the absolute necessity of this internal work of the Spirit before the call — the external, general call of the gospel — can possibly be effectual.

So, then, what is this effectual, internal call that we are speaking about? Well, the most we can say about it is — and this must of necessity be true in the light of these scriptures — that it is the exercise of the power of the Holy Spirit in the soul. It is a direct operation of the Holy Spirit within us. It is immediate, it is spiritual, it is supernatural, miraculous. And what it does is to make a new mode of spiritual activity possible within us. Without this operation we are incapable of any true spiritual activity but as the result of this operation of the Holy Spirit upon us, we are rendered capable, for the first time, of spiritual activity and that is how this call now becomes effectual, that is what enables us to receive it.

Now this is very important and I want to emphasize the immediacy, the direct action. You see, what happens when the call comes to men and women effectually is not simply that the moral influence of the truth is exercised upon them. Some people have thought that; they have said that the gospel is preached and that the truth has a kind of general moral effect upon people. For instance, to take a human theme, a capable orator, a man wanting to persuade men and women to vote at an election for a given party, can put the case so well that he can exercise a moral influence upon his listeners. But it is not that. It is an operation of the Spirit upon the men and women themselves, in the depths. It is not merely that the Holy Spirit heightens our natural faculties and powers, it is more than that. It is the Spirit acting upon the soul from within and producing within us a new principle of spiritual action.

Now it must be that; it cannot be less than that. Because these things, says Paul, are all spiritual. And that is why the natural man does not understand them; and that is why, as I have often reminded you, we should never be surprised, or to the slightest extent disappointed or put out, when somebody brings us the argument that ‘Christianity cannot be right because look at this great man and he doesn’t believe it!’ How often have you heard that argument! Someone says, ‘You know, I cannot believe this, because if Christianity were true, it could not be possible that all these philosophers and scientists and all these great statesmen and other men do not believe it.’

In the light of these things, it is very natural and we can understand it perfectly well. The greatest natural intellect cannot receive this, he is ‘a natural man’. And you need a spiritual faculty to receive the wonderful truth about the two natures in the one Person; the outstanding doctrine about the Trinity; the whole doctrine of the incarnation and the atonement, and so on. This is spiritual truth and to the natural person it is utter folly, it is foolishness, as Paul says. So when the Holy Spirit does enable us to believe it, it must be something beyond the heightening of our natural faculties. It is not simply that He brings the truth of His great moral suasion to us. No, no. We need some new faculty, some new principle, and that is the very work that He does. He implants within us this new spiritual principle, this principle of spiritual vitality and activity, and it is as the result of this that the general call of the gospel comes to us in an effectual manner.

So, then, let me again give you some scriptural proofs of this, because I do have them. You will find a practical illustration in Acts 16:14 . Here is Paul, preaching in the town of Philippi. It is a very crucial passage for us because it was the Apostle’s first visit to Europe and it was the first time that the Christian gospel was ever preached there. And do not forget that the first convert that the Christian gospel obtained in Europe was a woman called Lydia. She was the first person in the history of Europe to whom the call of the gospel came. How did it happen? We are told: ‘A certain women named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us’ — as many others did. The Apostle sat down and preached the word. There was the external call; he told them the gospel, the facts about the Lord Jesus Christ and the meaning of the facts. He said all this and we are told that among those listening was a woman called Lydia and that she heard this, as many have heard the gospel preached in a church or a chapel but have gone home in an unbelieving condition and have died as unbelievers. What was it, then, that made the difference with Lydia? Notice! ‘… whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.’

Now there it is perfectly. The word is preached, yes, but people do not pay attention to it. They look at one another while it is being preached, or they write in their books or they recite poetry to themselves or they are smiling at one another. In a sense they hear it, but they do not attend to it and you cannot be saved until you attend to it. What made Lydia attend? The answer is, ‘ whose heart the Lord opened ’. The Lord put something in her heart, this internal work, and the result of that was that she paid attention, and she saw the gospel and received it. The external call became the internal call, the general became effectual. She believed and was baptized and also her household. It is unmistakable — it was the Lord opening her heart that made the difference; but for that, she would never have believed.

And then, of course, we have a great theological statement in 1 Corinthians 2:10– 15 . Paul has just been saying that the princes of this world do not know God’s secret wisdom, ‘for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory’ (v. 8 ). The princes had heard about these things but they had not believed. But we believe, says Paul. Why? What is the difference between us and the princes of the world? It is this: ‘But’ — and there is the contrast —‘God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so’ — notice this — ‘the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.’ No man can know them, it is the Spirit of God alone who can know them. ‘Now we have received’ — we the believers, the Christians — ‘we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God’ — Why? — ‘that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual’ — and we are that, thank God — ‘judgeth’ — discerns, understands — ‘all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.’

And again I could refer you to Ephesians 1:18 and to 1 Thessalonians 1:5 once more, and to Philippians 2:13 . In other words, there are proofs positive of this statement that it is the internal operation of the Holy Spirit upon the soul and the heart of men and women that brings them into a condition in which the call can become effectual. And when the Spirit does it, of course, it is absolutely certain, and because of that some people have used the term — which I do not like myself — irresistible grace . I do not like the term because it seems to give the impression that something has happened which has been hammering at a person’s will and has knocked him down and bludgeoned him. But it is not that. It is that the Holy Spirit implants a principle within me which enables me, for the first time in my life, to discern and to apprehend something of this glorious, wondrous truth. He works upon my will. ‘It is God that worketh in you both to will and to do.’ He does not strike me; He does not beat me; He does not coerce me. No, thank God, what He does is operate upon my will so that I desire these things and rejoice in them and love them. He leads, He persuades, He acts upon my will in such a way that when He does, the call of the gospel is effectual, and it is certain, and it is sure. God’s work never fails, and when God works in a man or woman, the work is effective.

So let me plead with you to consider those great passages of Scripture that I have put before you. Study them, pray over them, meditate with them. And as you do so, I think you will agree with me that there is only one thing to say and it is this:

A debtor to mercy alone,
Of covenant mercy I sing.
—Augustus Toplady

I am what I am by the grace of God and by that alone.

Regeneration – a New Disposition

In the last lecture, we saw that the Bible teaches that in the case of the saved there is an effectual call. That call comes in such a way that they accept it and we realized that this is the result of the work of the Holy Spirit in each person; it is a supernatural work which makes the call effectual in believers, in the saved. But of course even that does not bring to an end our consideration of this question.

We must now ask: What is it that the Holy Spirit does to enable those who become believers, who are saved in this way, to believe the truth? What exactly does He do in order to make the general call effectual? And the answer is, regeneration . Now you notice the order in which we are taking these doctrines. Earlier, we spent some time in considering the order of salvation, the order in which these things should be considered, and this seems to me to be the inevitable order: the general call; yes, but effectual in the saved. What makes it effectual? The Holy Spirit regenerates.

It is interesting to notice the relationship between this effectual call and regeneration. There is a sense, of course, in which regeneration precedes the effectual call.

‘Well, why didn’t you put them in that order?’ someone may ask. It was for this reason: having started with the general call we notice that there is this division into the two groups and it is clear that it must be effectual in some and not in others. When you ask what it is that makes it effectual, the answer is, regeneration. But looked at from the eternal standpoint, they come in the other order, and what happens is that the general call is responded to by the regenerate. In other words, the call becomes effectual because they are regenerate. That is largely — a technical matter and yet I think it is good for us to have these things clearly in our minds.

Here, then, is this great central and vital doctrine of regeneration. There can be no question at all but that from our standpoint this doctrine, together with the doctrine of the atonement, is incomparably the most important doctrine of all, and there is a sense in which we simply cannot understand Christian doctrine and Christian truth without being clear about the doctrine of regeneration. And yet I would suggest that this doctrine is seriously and sadly neglected amongst us. Oh, I know that lip service is paid to it and that people talk very glibly and generally about being ‘born again’. But to what extent do people study it? To what extent have we really looked into it and discovered what exactly it means?

No, there is undoubtedly a failure in this respect. Search the various hymnbooks and you will, I think, be struck by the paucity of good hymns on this theme of regeneration. We have seen that there is a defect in most hymnbooks with regard to strong doctrinal hymns on the Holy Spirit. The hymns we have are superficial, subjective and generally sentimental. And it seems to me that exactly the same thing can be said with regard to this great doctrine of regeneration. This is significant, I feel, because there is no doubt, as I hope to show you, that this doctrine is absolutely pivotal. Why is it that we persist in stopping with the idea of forgiveness only, and fail to realise that this other doctrine is as essential to us as the doctrine of the atonement leading to the forgiveness of our sins?

The only other general remark I would make is this: I have always been convinced, and I am now more convinced than ever, that people who are in trouble about these great doctrines of grace are generally so because they have never clearly grasped the significance and meaning of the doctrine of regeneration. If we only grasp this clearly, most of the other problems solve themselves. But of course, if we are not clear about this, if we do not realise exactly what happens to us in regeneration, then it is but natural that we should be in difficulties about the effectual call and many other subjects.

Let us, therefore, approach our subject by first of all simply looking at the various terms that the Bible itself uses with regard to this great event that the Holy Spirit produces within us. First, there is the word regeneration itself. In Titus 3:5 the apostle Paul speaks about ‘the washing of regeneration’. That is actually the only instance in which the word ‘regeneration’ is used in the New Testament to describe this great, climactic event in the history of the saved soul.

Then there is a second group of terms which mean to beget or to beget again , to bear or to give birth ; and there are quite a number of these. In John 1:13 , for instance, in the prologue to this Gospel, we read, ‘Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.’ Then there are all those instances in our Lord’s conversation with Nicodemus, in John 3:3 , 4 , 5 , 6 , 7 and 8 . And you have the same word in several passages in the first epistle of John: 1 John 2:29 , 3:9 , 4:7 , 5:1 . ‘Born of God’ is a great statement in 1 John.

Next, there is another word which rather conveys the suggestion of bringing forth or begetting . This is found in James 1:18 , which reads, ‘Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth.’ Then there is a large group of words which carry the meaning of creating . We read in Ephesians 2:10 , ‘For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus.…’ It is also in 2 Corinthians 5:17 : ‘If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature’ — a new creation. In Galatians 6:15 we read, ‘For neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature,’ or a new creation; and again in Ephesians 4:24 : ‘And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.’ Again, that is a term used to describe this amazing event in the history of the soul: it is a new creation.

And finally there is the word to quicken . Now the example of this is in Ephesians 2:5 , where we read, ‘Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace ye are saved).’ You may be surprised that I do not say Ephesians 2:1 which reads, ‘And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins’, but the expression about quickening is not there in the original, but has simply been supplied by the translators for the sake of understanding, and rightly so. And then there is just one other example of that word, and it is in Colossians 2:13 , ‘And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses.’ It is the parallel, of course, to the statement in Ephesians 2:5 , something that we constantly find with these two epistles.

Those, then, are the actual terms which are used in the Scriptures to denote and to convey the teaching concerning this great climactic change. So, what do we mean by regeneration? Now if you read the history of the use of this term in the history of doctrine or of the Church, you will find great confusion, because it is a term that has been used loosely and even individual writers are not consistent in their use of it. Sometimes it has been used in a very restricted sense, but sometimes in a wide sense to include almost everything that happens to the believer — justification and sanctification as well as regeneration — and this is the practice, for instance, in Roman Catholic writers.

So as we consider what we mean by regeneration, the one important thing, it seems to me, is that we must differentiate it from conversion. And yet how frequently they are confused. But regeneration is not conversion and for this reason: conversion is something that we do whereas regeneration, as I shall show you, is something that is done to us by God. Conversion means a turning away from one thing to another in practice, but that is not the meaning of regeneration. We can put it like this: when people convert themselves or turn, they are giving proof of the fact that they are regenerate. Conversion is something that follows upon regeneration. The change takes place in the outward life and living of men and women because this great change has first of all taken place within them.

You can look at it like this: there is all the difference between planting the seed and the result of the planting of that seed. Now regeneration means the planting of the seed of life and obviously that must be differentiated from what results or eventuates from that. There is a difference between generation and birth. Generation takes place a long time before the birth takes place. Generation is one act. It leads subsequently, after certain processes have been going on, to the actual process of birth. So it is good to hold the two things separately in our minds, and remember that when we are talking about regeneration, we are talking about generation, not the actual bringing forth, the birth.

Now the effectual call comes in the actual birth, and that is what gives a proof of the fact that men and women are alive. The call is effectual: they believe. Yes, but that means that the process of generation, the implanting of the seed of life, must have already taken place. I find it helpful to draw that kind of distinction because it will help us to differentiate not only between regeneration and conversion, but between regeneration and adoption. For again, people often confuse adoption into sonship with regeneration, and yet, clearly and patently, they are two different things, as we shall see.

So then, we define regeneration as the implanting of new life in the soul. That is it in its essence. If you like a definition which is a little more amplified, consider this: it is the act of God by which a principle of new life is implanted in a man or woman with the result that the governing disposition of the soul is made holy. And then the actual birth is that which gives evidence of the first exercise of this disposition.

Having put that to you as a precise definition, let us go on to consider the essential nature of what takes place when we are regenerated. This is obviously of very great importance and therefore we must start with certain negatives so that we may be quite clear as to what regeneration does not mean and what it does not represent.

The first thing we must say, negatively, is that regeneration does not mean that a change takes place in the substance of human nature, and the important word there is substance . The doctrine of regeneration does not teach that the substance, or the raw material, of what constitutes human nature, whatever it may be, is changed.

Or we can put it like this: we must not think that some actual, substantial physical seed or germ of life is introduced. Regeneration is not a kind of injection or infusion of actual physical substance into us. It is not anything physical, it is a spiritual change. Thirdly, we must not think that it means that there is a complete change of the whole of human nature. The regenerate person does not become something entirely different. It does not mean that (and we shall see as we go on with these doctrines why all these negatives are important). In the same way, it does not mean that man becomes divine or that he becomes God.

‘Ah, but,’ says someone, ‘are we not partakers of the divine nature?’ Yes, but not in the sense that we suddenly become divine. We do not become like the Lord Jesus Christ with two natures — human and divine. We must be very careful to exclude that.

Another negative is that regeneration does not mean addition to or subtraction from the faculties or the essence of the soul. Now some people have thought that — and every one of these negatives is put in to safeguard against things that have been thought and said from time to time about regeneration. The five faculties of the soul are mind, memory, affection, the will and conscience and some people seem to think that what happens in regeneration is that an additional faculty is put in or that, somehow or another, one or more of the other faculties is taken out or is changed. But that is not the biblical doctrine of regeneration.

And my last negative is that regeneration does not just mean moral reformation. Again, some people have thought that. They have thought that all that happens in regeneration is that people’s wills are changed and that, because of this, they reform themselves and live a better life. But that is nothing but moral reformation; it is not regeneration.

Let us, then, come to the positive. What is regeneration? It is, let me repeat, the implanting of a principle of new spiritual life and a radical change in the governing disposition of the soul. Let me explain what I mean by that. The important thing to grasp is the whole idea of disposition . In addition to the faculties of our souls, there is something at the back of them which governs them all and that is what we refer to as our disposition. Take two men. They have the same faculties, as regards their abilities there may be nothing to choose between them, but one lives a good life, one lives a bad life. What makes the difference? The answer is that the good man has a good disposition and this good disposition, this thing which is behind the faculties and governs them and uses them, urges him to use his faculties in the direction of goodness. The other man has an evil disposition, so he urges the same faculties in an entirely different direction. That is what one means by disposition.

When you come to think of it, and when you analyze yourself, your life and your whole conduct and behavior, and that of other people, you will see at once that these dispositions are, of course, of tremendous importance. They are that condition, if you like, which determines what we do and what we are. Let me give you some other illustrations. Take people who have different interests and abilities. Take two people who are more or less opposite; one who is artistic and another who is scientific. What is the difference between them? Well, you cannot say that it is merely a difference in intellectual power, nor is it a difference in the faculties of their souls. No, but there is in every person a disposition which seems to determine the kind of person he or she is. It is this that directs the faculties and the abilities so that one person is artistic and the other scientific, and so on. Now I am making this point to show that what happens in regeneration is that God so operates upon us in the Holy Spirit that this fundamental disposition of ours is changed. He put a holy principle, a seed of new spiritual life, into this disposition that determines what I am and how I behave and how I use and employ my faculties.

Let me give you one great illustration to show what I mean. Take the case of the apostle Paul. Look at him as Saul of Tarsus. There is no question about his ability, nor about his understanding, nor about his will power. There is no question about his memory. His faculties are there and are clear and outstanding; he has always been a remarkable man. But there he is, persecuting the Church, regarding the Son of God as a blasphemer, and he goes down to Damascus, ‘breathing out threatenings and slaughter’, using all his powers to exterminate the Christian Church. But look at him later, preaching the gospel as it has never been preached before or since, with the same powers, the same abilities, the same personality, the same everything, but moving in exactly the opposite direction. What has changed? It is not the faculties of Paul’s soul — they are still the same: the same vehemence, the same logic, the same thoroughness, the same readiness to risk all, out and out, he is the same man, obviously. And yet the whole direction, the whole bent, the whole outlook has changed. He is a different man. What has happened to him? He has a new disposition.

Now, I am emphasizing this for this good reason: it is only by understanding this that we are able to understand the difference between regeneration and a psychological change and process. You see, when men and women are regenerated, they do not become all the same, like postage stamps. But when they become the victims of a psychological movement they tend to become identical — a very important distinction. When people are regenerated, the particular gifts which make them the men and women they are always remain. Paul, as I reminded you, was essentially the same man when he preached the gospel as he was when he denounced and persecuted it. I mean by that that he was the same individual and did things in the same way. We are not all meant to be identical as Christians. We are not all meant to speak and to preach and to pray in the same way. The gospel does not make that kind of change, and if you think of regeneration as doing that, then you have a false doctrine of regeneration. What it does is to deal with and to change this disposition that is at the back of everything; this fundamental something that determines direction and way and manner. It is vital that we realise that the change in regeneration takes place in the disposition.

Then, secondly, because of the power of the disposition in us, it therefore follows of necessity that this change is going to affect the whole person. Does anybody think that I am contradicting one of my negatives? I have maintained that the whole person is not entirely changed — am I now saying the opposite? I hold to my negative, but I do say that, in principle , because of the change in the disposition, the whole person is affected. The way I use my mind will be affected, the operation of my emotions will be affected, and so will my will, because, by definition, the disposition is at the back of all those and gives direction to them. So when this disposition of mine is changed, then I am like a person with a new mind. Before, I was not interested in the gospel; now I am very interested in it. Before, I could not understand it; now I do.

But the change in my disposition does not mean that I have a greater intellect now than I had before! No, I have exactly the same intellect, the same mind. But, because the disposition governing it is changed, my mind is operating in a different realm and in a different way and it seems to be a new mind. And it is exactly the same with the feelings. A man who used to hate the gospel, now loves it. A woman who hated the Lord Jesus Christ, now loves Him. And likewise with the will: the will resisted, it was obstinate and rebellious; but now it desires, it is anxious, it is concerned about the gospel.

The next thing we say is that it is a change which is instantaneous. Now you see the importance of differentiating between generation and coming to birth? Generation, by definition, is always an instantaneous act. There is a moment, a flash, in which the germ of life enters, impregnates; that is one instantaneous action. In other words, there are no intermediate stages in regeneration. Life is either implanted or it is not; it cannot be partly implanted. It is not gradual. Now, again, I do want to emphasise this point. When I say that it is instantaneous, I am not referring to our consciousness of it, but to the thing itself, as it is done by God. The consciousness, of course, comes into the realm of time, whereas this act of germination is timeless, and that is why it is immediate.

So the next thing — and this again is most important — is that generation, the implanting of this seed of life and the change of the disposition, happens in the subconscious, or, if you prefer it, in the unconscious. Our Lord explained that fully to Nicodemus ( John 3 ). It is a secret, an inscrutable operation, that cannot be directly perceived by us; indeed, we cannot even fully understand it. The first thing we know about it is that it has happened, because we are conscious of something different, but that means that we do not understand it and that we really cannot arrive at its secret.

Now, let me give you the authority for this. Nicodemus, like all of us, was trying to understand it. Our Lord said to him, ‘Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God’ ( John 3:3 ). ‘My dear Nicodemus,’ He said in effect, ‘you are trying to understand the difference between yourself and Me and what I am doing. Stop at once! It is not a question of changing, or of understanding, this or that particular thing, it is the governing disposition of your life that must be changed; you must be born again. It is something at the back of all these faculties that you are trying to use.’

‘But,’ Nicodemus said, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?’ ( John 3:4 ). He wanted to understand, and our Lord kept on giving the same reply, and Nicodemus continued to argue.

Eventually our Lord put it to him like this: ‘The wind bloweth where it listeth …’ There is something sovereign about it. You do not know when it is going to come and go, it decides its own time. You do not know where it starts and where it ends. ‘The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof’ — you are aware that it is happening — ‘but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth’ ( John 3:8 ). You do not see it; you can hear it, you can see things waving in the breeze, but you do not understand it. There is a mystery about the wind, something inscrutable. You cannot fathom it or grasp it with your understanding, but you see the results. ‘So’ — like that — ‘is every one that is born of the Spirit’ (v. 8 ).

Now there are some people who completely miss this because they would translate the wind in verse 8 as ‘the Spirit bloweth’ — the Holy Spirit. But patently it does not mean that, it cannot mean that, because our Lord is using an illustration. He is talking about the wind, the gale, if you like, not the Holy Spirit, nor any other spirit. ‘[It] bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof’ — you cannot see it, but you see the effects and the results — ‘so is everyone that is born of the Spirit.’ There is the essential nature of this great change.

My fourth point is that regeneration is obviously, therefore, something which is done by God. It is a creative act of God in which men and women are entirely passive and contribute nothing, nothing whatsoever. We read in John 1:13 , ‘Which were born’ — you do not give birth to yourself — ‘not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man but of God’ — entirely. God implants this principle, this seed of spiritual life. And again, of course, there are the words our Lord spoke to Nicodemus, ‘Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh’ — and it cannot do anything about it — ‘and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit’ ( John 3:5–6 ). In other words, the terms are that we are born again . It is something that happens to us; we are begotten, we do not beget ourselves, we cannot generate ourselves. It is entirely the work of God in us and upon us.

We have not yet finished our consideration of this great and pivotal and central doctrine, but I do trust that, at this point, the great thought is clear in our minds and in our understanding, that it is there, in the disposition, that God operates, and it is God through the Holy Spirit who does it. We are born of the Spirit.

Now I hesitate to use the illustration, but you remember that our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ was born of the virgin Mary but He was conceived of the Holy Ghost. Something comparable, similar to that — not the same thing, let me be clear about that — seems to happen here. This principle of spiritual life, this change, therefore, in the disposition, is something that is done by the Holy Spirit of God. Human nature is not entirely changed by it but because the disposition is changed the whole man or woman is like a new creation. In every respect they are different people because this fundamental thing that governs all else has been changed in them.

The faculties, however, remain as before. Never try to be somebody else, be yourself. God wants you to be yourself. He has made you as He has made you, and you can best glorify Him by being yourself. Beware always of Christian people who always talk in the same way and are the same in most respects, that is more likely to be psychological than spiritual. The man or woman, each individual, remains what he or she was, and thus you have the glorious variety in the apostles and in the Christian Church throughout the centuries. All together testify to the same Saviour and the same grace, the same regeneration, the same change in the disposition, but revealed according to the gifts and faculties, the propensities and powers that God has given to each person.

What a wonderful salvation, what a glorious way of redemption! Oh, I like a word which is used by the author of the epistle to the Hebrews in the second chapter. It describes and defines perfectly what I am trying to say. Talking about this great salvation the author says of God, ‘For it became him’ — it was like Him, it was His way of doing it — ‘… in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through suffering’ ( Heb. 2:10 ) — it became Him! And I trust that we all, having looked thus briefly and inadequately at this great doctrine, would say the same thing; it is a way of salvation that becomes Him, the almighty God.

The New Birth

We have, let me remind you, been asking how it is that the call of the gospel becomes effectual in certain people. And in the last lecture, we began to answer that question by saying that the call becomes effectual in men and women as the result of the Holy Spirit’s work of regeneration. It becomes effectual because in these people there is now a principle which was not there before which enables them to respond to this spiritual truth, this divine truth, that comes to them. And that is the difference between believers and unbelievers, those who are saved and those who are not. The latter have the ‘natural mind’, they are in the flesh, they are not spiritual, and that is why these things mean nothing to them. But they mean everything to the others and that is because they are now spiritual, and they are spiritual as the result of regeneration. So we began considering what the Bible teaches about regeneration. We considered the terms in Scripture and then we came to examine its real nature. It is not a mere change in some of the faculties of the soul, but is something behind that; and this we defined as being a change in a person’s fundamental disposition.

Now as we proceed with our consideration, I want to emphasize again the profound nature and character of the change. It is something that is emphasized everywhere in Scripture, which talks about our being given ‘a new heart’ ( Ezek. 36:26 ), and ‘heart’ in the Bible generally means, not merely the seat of the affections, as in current usage, but the very center, the seat, of the whole personality. So when the Scriptures talk about giving us a new heart or a clean heart, they are talking about what I have described as the fundamental disposition, the thing that controls and determines everything else, the change is made there.

This whole question of regeneration, as we saw when we considered what our Lord said to Nicodemus, is, of course, a great mystery. It is a miracle, it is supernatural. Our Lord compared it to the wind in order to get Nicodemus, and all of us through Nicodemus, to see that there is a sense in which we just cannot finally understand it. ‘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’ ( John 3:8 ). And yet it does behove us, as I am never tired of saying, to go as far as we can. So, in an attempt to make this wonderful change more or less comprehensible to us, I pass on to you what I, at any rate, regard as the best illustration that I have come across. It is an illustration that is suggested by the Scripture itself, and it is that of the whole process of grafting.

You may be anxious, for instance, to grow a certain type of pear. Now a way in which it is often done is this: you are given just a graft, a portion, a shoot, of the variety you like. Then you take a common wild pear tree and hack into it and into that wound which you have made in the tree, you put this shoot, this sprout. Then you bind them together. And eventually you will have a wonderful pear tree, producing nothing but your chosen variety of pear.

But in the meantime you have many things to do. You do not merely leave it at that. What happens is that the strength and the power, as it were, the life and the sap that comes up through that wild pear tree, will enter into this shoot and it will produce fruit. Yes, but below the level of the grafting, the wild pear tree will still tend to throw out its own wild shoots and branches and want to produce its own fruit. So you have to lop off these natural branches. You have to cut them, prune them right down and, if you do that, a time will arrive when the tree will produce only this wonderful type of pear that you are anxious to grow.

You see, at first you seem to have two natures in the one tree, but if you prune off the old the new will gradually master the whole and you will eventually have a pear tree which is producing the type of fruit that you want. Now that seems to me to be incomparably the best illustration that has ever been used with regard to this matter. You are putting new life in so that at one stage you have got one tree but with two natures — the cultured, cultivated nature, and the wild nature. Yes, but if, by pruning off these wild branches, you see to it that the strength of that tree is only allowed to go into the grafted–in branch not only will that be strengthened and bear its fruit, it will gradually conquer and master the other. It seems to have a power to send its life down into the old until eventually you have the excellent pear tree that you desired at the beginning.

Now no illustration is perfect, but it does seem to me that that goes as far as we can possibly go. That is what happens, in a sense, in regeneration. There is still only one self, there are not two selves. But this new nature is put within us. We are called upon to mortify our members that are on the earth. We have to go on pruning and keeping under that which belongs to the old nature and, as we do so, this new life will grow and develop and produce fruit and the new nature will be increasingly in evidence. I am anxious to stress this point, because I am afraid we can even go further and say that some people, who regard themselves as truly evangelical, altogether deny the truth and the doctrine of regeneration. So I want to put this very strongly. In regeneration, a real change takes place and that within us. It is more than a mere change in our relationship to truth or to a person. A change takes place in us and not outside us only, and it is as definite as the grafting of a pear shoot into a pear tree.

Nor is this a change that remains only while we remain abiding in Christ. Now there is a very familiar teaching about sanctification which is put to us like this: the illustration is taken of a poker. There is the poker, it is cold, black and hard and cannot be bent. So you take that poker and put it into a fire and leave it there. And in the fire the poker becomes red hot and malleable, so that you can bend it. Ah yes, we are told, that is all right, but the poker remains red and hot and malleable only as long as it is kept in the fire. That is an illustration of abiding in Christ, and as long as you abide in Him there will be this new life, it is said, and this new way of living. But if you take that poker out of the fire and leave it out, it reverts completely to what it was before; it becomes black and cold and hard.

Now all that is taught to show the importance of abiding in Christ. It tells us that if we do not do so, we revert exactly to the condition that we were in before. But that, I suggest, is a denial of the doctrine of regeneration! Those who are Christians and who are born again, may backslide; they may not abide in Christ in this mystical sense, but, even then, they do not return to where they were before. They are born again; there is this new principle in them; the change has taken place and the change is still there. They are not manifesting it fully but it is there and we must not describe those people as reverting to the precise position they were in before.

It is exactly the same with that other illustration about the lifebelt. The sinner is compared to a man in the sea who cannot swim, but, we are told, as long as he puts on the lifebelt he is held up. Yes, but if he wriggles out of the lifebelt, he will sink to the bottom. Now there again, it seems to me, is a denial of the doctrine of regeneration because it tells us that when the man is not abiding, he finds himself in exactly the same position in which he was before, as if nothing had happened to him and no change had taken place.

But as we have said, the doctrine of regeneration teaches that the change is one which takes place not merely in our relationship to the Lord or in our relationship to truth, but is something that God does within us. It is a new life put in us, a new principle of life and obedience, and therefore, of course, it is something which grows and develops and becomes progressively greater. Listen to the apostle Paul saying that: ‘But we all,’ he says, ‘with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory’ ( 2 Cor. 3:18 ). Now there, you see, is development and growth. Why? Because this principle of life has been put in. ‘We are changed,’ as Charles Wesley puts it, drawing upon that verse, ‘from glory into glory, till in heaven we take our place.’ The work is within us, and we are changed, we are no longer the same. All these scriptural terms should surely have saved us from the error that is illustrated in the pictures of the poker and the lifebelt. We are talking of a rebirth, a new birth, of being born again, of a new creation. Each of us is virtually a new person.

Now I cannot emphasize that too strongly because it is not only something that is clearly taught in Scripture, but when we come on later to deal with the doctrine of sanctification, we shall of necessity see how important it is that we understand this particular teaching about regeneration. If we do not, we shall unconsciously be denying the doctrine of regeneration altogether in our anxiety to get people to abide in Christ. It is right to exhort people to do that, and we shall do so when we come to that doctrine, but we must never put it in such a way as to give the impression that regeneration simply consists in a new relationship to Christ. That is to introduce a very real confusion.

So, then, having emphasized the profound inward character of the change, let me go on to ask a question: Why is this change absolutely essential? On what grounds have we the right to say that it is? Well, first of all Scripture teaches that. You remember again what our Lord said to Nicodemus: ‘Verily, verily I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God’ ( John 3:3 ). Then he also says: ‘Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God’ (v. 5 ). The rebirth is an absolute, utter essential. A man cannot even see the kingdom, let alone enter it, unless he has been born again.

Paul teaches the same thing in Galatians 6:15 : ‘In Christ Jesus,’ he says, ‘neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision but a new creature.’ That is the only thing that matters: not circumcision, nor the absence of it but the new creature, the new creation. And again, in Ephesians 4:24 , Paul says the same thing when he describes the new man, ‘which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness’.

But, in many ways, one of the most important texts in this connection is Hebrews 12:14 : ‘Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.’ Holiness is absolutely essential and, mark you, holiness there does not merely mean a sanctification that you may or may not receive. Without holiness no man shall — can — see the Lord. So it is no use saying that some Christians have received sanctification and some have not, and that those who have not are still going to heaven — without holiness heaven is impossible. And it is in regeneration that this holiness is implanted in us. This new life is a holy life, a holy principle is placed within us.

There, then, are the explicit statements of Scripture. But there are other statements which teach the same thing by implication. Eternal life is defined as a knowledge of God: ‘This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent’ ( John 17:3 ). Our Lord says that He has come ‘that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly’ ( John 10:10 ). He has come to give us eternal life and eternal life comprises this knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ whom He has sent. And that in itself makes regeneration an absolute necessity. God is holy. God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. So life eternal is to know Him and to have fellowship with Him. And, therefore, it means, of necessity, that my nature must correspond. There must be something in me which corresponds to that and can enjoy that.

Yes, but we know that, by nature, men and women as the result of the fall, and as the result of sin, are the exact opposite of that. And again, that is why our Lord puts it so plainly in speaking to Nicodemus. Nicodemus was trying to understand and thought he could go from where he was to the next position. No, no, says our Lord, ‘That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit’ ( John 3:4 ), and there is nothing in common between them at all. You cannot mix the flesh and the Spirit, it simply cannot be done. It is no use arguing, He says, the thing is impossible. There is the spiritual, here is the sinful, that which belongs to the flesh, and you cannot bring them together. You must be born again. You must be made spiritual.

So the character of God and the character of men and women as the result of sin makes regeneration essential, because there is no such thing as an innate divine spark in human beings. Of course, the people who believe in a divine spark do not believe in regeneration and they are perfectly consistent. But it does seem rather odd that people who denounce the doctrine of the divine spark nevertheless seem to think that there is something in human nature which can do a great deal and which does not make regeneration an absolute and prior necessity.

So regeneration must come at the very beginning because if it is possible for me to do something which will eventually lead to my regeneration, I do not need regeneration. If I, by myself, as I am as the result of the fall and of sin, can appreciate spiritual truth, if I can appreciate the gospel and say, ‘Yes I’m going to pay attention to that,’ and then, as the result of my paying attention, I am born again, well then, I do not need the gift of life. If I have already got the ability and the power and the discrimination to recognize truth and to desire it, then I do not need to be regenerated. But the fact is, of course, that I do not have such a power. Men and women, as the result of the fall and of sin, do not desire this truth. They are at enmity against God. They are opposed to God. ‘You that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works,’ says Paul ( Col. 2:21 ). They hate the law of God. They have nothing to do with Him. They are carnal, carnally minded. They ‘mind the things of the flesh’ ( Rom. 8:5 ). So regeneration is not only essential, but is essential at the beginning; you can have nothing without it. It is impossible for anything to happen in us which can make us Christians until regeneration has taken place.

Now that brings us on to the next question: How exactly is regeneration brought about in us? This is an interesting subject. It is not merely a question of the moral influence of the truth. Those who are not evangelical say that as people listen to the gospel, as they come under its influence and its power, it changes them. They like the ideas, they take hold of them, and the effect of the ideas and of the truth is such that they become different people; they are changed. But that is not it. We are talking about something that happens down in the depths of the personality, and this is what brings about change.

Moral influence can, of course, make a great difference. It can make people change their ideas. It can make them change their way of living; it can turn a drunkard into a teetotaler — it has often done it. You can present arguments and the argument may go home. Someone may give up drink completely, become very sober, and an advocate of temperance, without Christ being mentioned at all. Under the moral effect of truth, and the moral influence of ideas, people can produce great changes in themselves. But that is not what we are dealing with here.

Secondly, it is not produced by baptism either. This is an old controversy, an old source of discussion. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that regeneration is produced and accomplished through the instrumentality of baptism, and only through baptism. You must be baptised before you can be regenerate. I do not want to anticipate a later lecture, but let us be clear at this point. In baptism, Roman Catholics teach that our sins are forgiven and that our moral nature is changed and renewed within us. We are told that baptism delivers us from the inherent power and defilement of original sin. You remember that, as the result of the fall of Adam and our connection with him, we are all defiled, and the power of sin has entered in upon us. Now Roman Catholics teach that when a child is baptised, it is delivered from the inherent power and pollution of original sin. All that it has inherited from Adam is washed away, blotted out, and not only that, by baptism we are made children and heirs of God.

The Anglo–Catholics also teach baptismal regeneration. And, strange though it may seem, the same is true of the Lutherans. Luther never quite got rid of this view, and neither have his followers. There is one difference between the Lutheran and Roman Catholic views. The Catholics say that you cannot be regenerate without baptism; the Lutherans say that you can but that the usual, normal manner is by means of baptism. Well, we do not teach that. We say that regeneration is not by baptism, that there is abundant scriptural evidence in the book of Acts alone to prove that the people who were baptised were those who gave evidence that they were already born again. Indeed, they were baptised because they had been born again. It was given as a sign and a seal to them because they had produced evidence of the new birth.

But to us a much more interesting and fascinating question is this: What is the relationship of regeneration to the word that is preached? There are a number of texts that suggest that our regeneration takes place through and by means of the word. Let me suggest two to you. James 1:18 : ‘Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth , that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.’ Then there is 1 Peter 1:23 : ‘Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God.’ However, you will remember that in the last lecture I drew a distinction between the act of regeneration and the coming to birth and said that there may be a long interval between the two. Now I suggest to you that both these texts I have quoted are concerned about the bringing to birth. And it is certainly the word that does that. It is the effectual call, coming through the medium of the word, that, as it were, brings the seed of life to life, so that the birth takes place. But if you keep in mind the distinction between the generation and the actual coming to birth, I think you will see the difference. The word is used, not in the act of generating, but in the bringing out into life of that which has already been implanted within.

At this point some would quote the parable of the sower and the different types of ground, and emphasise that the life is in the seed and so on. But surely the whole point of that parable is to emphasise the character of the ground into which the seed is put. It is stony ground? Is it encompassed by thorns? And so on. Or is it good ground? In other words, the teaching in that parable is that what really matters is that fundamental something which we call the disposition. And if that has been changed and put right, then, when the word comes, it will be effectual; it will lead to the result; it will yield the fruit.

Indeed, the Scriptures do seem to teach that quite explicitly. Take, for instance, John 6:65 : ‘Therefore said I unto you,’ says our Lord, ‘that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.’ Now there were the people, hearing the same word, and as we have already seen, some came, some went away — what was the difference? It is this, our Lord, says, ‘… except it were given unto them of my Father.’ And again I would remind you of what we are told about Lydia. It was because the Lord had ‘opened her heart’ that she attended to Paul and received the word. It was not the word that opened her heart, it was the act of the Lord. It was this that led to her reception of the word. That surely must be the order. And the argument of 1 Corinthians 2 , especially verses 12 to 15 , obviously teaches the same thing.

But there are two final arguments about this which are not only of great importance, but, it seems to me, of very great interest also. What about the Old Testament saints? Now when we were dealing with the doctrine of the covenant, we were at great pains to emphasise that the Old Testament saints are in the same position as we are. There is only one covenant in the Old and in the New Dispensations. And you and I today are the children of Abraham, Abraham is our father, because we are children of faith. There is a difference, of course, in the administration of the covenant in the Old and in the New, but only one great covenant of grace. Our Lord tells us that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will be in the kingdom and that others will come from the east and from the west while the Jews will be left outside ( Luke 13:28–29 ). In other words, the Old Testament saints were born again. David was born again, he was a new man, a new creature, and so were the patriarchs and the prophets.

The author of the epistle to the Hebrews puts it like this at the end of chapter 11 . He said that those saints did not receive the promise in full. His argument is that it was kept back so that they should not, as it were, run ahead of us. Here it is: ‘And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect’ ( Heb. 11:39–40 ). So we are made perfect together. But if those Old Testament saints were regenerate, as they must have been, it is clear that it is not the word that actually performs the act of regeneration. Regeneration is something that is not mediate through the word, but immediate. It was the Spirit of God who dealt with them and operated upon them.

The other argument is that about children, especially about infants. Now we all believe, do we not, that there are infants and children who have gone and who will go to heaven and spend their eternity in the presence of God. Now how can a child be saved? Obviously every infant needs to be saved. If you believe in the doctrine of the fall and in the doctrine of original sin, you must believe that every child is born in sin and ‘shapen in iniquity’ ( Ps. 51:5 ); every child is dead in trespasses and in sins ( Eph. 2:21 ). They all inherit original sin and original guilt from Adam, every child that is born. How, then, can any child be saved? How can any child ever go to heaven?

Now, if you want to insist upon the fact that regeneration always follows upon hearing the word and believing it and accepting it — how can an infant be saved? The infant cannot receive truth, it does not have the ability; it does not have understanding, it has not awakened to these things. So is there no hope for any infant? We do not believe that, we obviously reject such a suggestion. And the answer is, of course, that a child is regenerated in exactly the same way as anybody else, because it is the action of this almighty being, of God Himself through the Holy Spirit. He can implant the seed of spiritual life in an unconscious infant with the same ease as He can do it in an adult person. Therefore you see why it is important for us to consider whether regeneration is something that happens indirectly through the word or whether it is indeed the direct operation of God upon us. And I am teaching again, as I did in the last lecture, that it is immediate, direct, it is God creating anew as He created the world out of nothing at the beginning.

And, finally, the last thing is that obviously, in the light of all this, regeneration is something that can never be lost. If you are regenerate, you will remain regenerate. It seems to me that this is absolutely inevitable because regeneration is the work of God. Yet there are those who seem to think that people can be born again as the result of believing the truth and then, if they backslide or fall into sin or deny the truth, they lose their regeneration. But if they come back again and believe again, then they are regenerate again — as if one can be born again and die and be born again and die an endless number of times! How important doctrine is! How important it is that we should be clear as to what the Scripture teaches about these things! It tells us that regeneration is the work of God Himself in the depths of the soul and that He does it in such a way that it is permanent. ‘No man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand’ ( John 10:29 ).

‘I am persuaded,’ says Paul, and let us notice this, ‘I am persuaded’ — he is certain — ‘that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord’ ( Rom. 8:38–39 ). And when Paul says that, he is expounding regeneration. It is not merely the relationship between us, it is because God has put this life in me, that nothing can separate me from Him. And when we come to deal with the mystical union which follows directly from this, we shall see how still more inevitable this must be. This is a permanent work and nothing can ever bring it to an end.

Take those verses from the first epistle of John: ‘Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin’ — which means that such a person does not go on abiding in sin. Why? Well — ‘for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God’ ( 1 John 3:9 ). He cannot go on sinning because he is born of God. Let us be clear about that. The man or woman who is born of God, who is regenerate, simply does not and cannot continue — abide — in a life of sin. They may backslide temporarily, but if they are born of God they will come back. It is as certain as that they have been born again. It is the way to test whether or not someone is born again.

Or take that other word in 1 John 2:19 : ‘They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.’ They were members of the Church, these people, they appeared to be Christians, they said the right things and up to a point their life seemed to be right, but they ‘went out’. Why? They went out ‘because they were not of us’ — they were not regenerate. They had never been born again. That is why they have gone out, says John, in a sense, to give proof of the fact that they have never really had life.

‘But what about Hebrews 6 and 10 ?’ asks someone. The answer is that there is nothing in either of those chapters to suggest that those people were ever regenerate. They had had marvellous experiences, but there is nothing to say that they were born again. They were not, and that is the explanation. The regenerate abide. They may backslide, they may fall into sin, they may fail, but they abide, because the life is there. The others may appear to be fully Christian but if there is no life they will not abide. Life shows itself, it gives proof of its existence — as we shall go on to see.