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Archive for October, 2010

Regeneration, Faith and Repentance

October 1, 2010 1 comment

No one can come to Me
unless the Father who sent Me draws him,
and I will raise him up at the last day

John 6:44
 

 

Long my imprisoned spirit lay, fast bound in sin and nature’s night
thine eye diffused a quick’ning ray; I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
my chains fell off, my heart was free; I rose, went forth, and followed thee.
Amazing Love! How can it be that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
 

 

These words from the hymn by Charles Wesley (1738) remind us that our salvation comes to us, not by works of our own hands, but by the gracious provision of a holy God through the sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). God effectually clothes those who would be saved with the righteousness of Jesus Christ, effectually calling them to freedom from the binding chains of sin.

The Reformed or Augustinian doctrine of election is grounded in the fact that man is so sinful, so depraved in his fallenness, that apart from the irresistible grace of God no one could ever turn to Christ. Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.” He didn’t say some people can come. He didn’t say only a few people can come. He said NO ONE is able to come to Him. Absolutely no one can come unless God does something first.

Notice that Jesus said “can.” Can means “is able,” while may means “has permission.” Jesus did not say that no one has permission to come to Him, or no one may come to Him. No, he said that no one is able to come to him. No one is able because man is totally depraved. Every faculty – mind, will, emotions – has been corrupted by sin. No one seeks after God because no one is good, holy, and righteous even in the least.

Jesus said no one can come to Him “unless.” An exception is introduced. Apart from this exception, no one could ever come to Christ. It is God the Father who “draws” men to a saving knowledge of Christ. This word “draw” doesn’t mean to “woo” or “entice.” Some people think that God gives grace to everyone, but that grace has a limited effect. It does not force people to come but only woos them. The final decision rests with the sinner. This view says that God foresees who will accept the gospel. Then because God foresees that particular person will accept the gospel, he regenerates him when that time comes. This makes regeneration a reward conferred rather than a gift which enables.

God “draws” to himself those He effectual regenerates. In John 6:44 we read, “Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court?” Acts 16:19 says, “They dragged them into the marketplace.” The same Greek word is used in all three verses. Obviously, mere enticement is not meant.

Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament tells us that the word translated draw in John 6:44 means “to compel by irresistible authority.” It was used in classical Greek for drawing water from a well. When was the last time you enticed or persuaded water to come up from the well? Of course, this could never happen! We force the water to come to the top of the well, drawing it up in a bucket against the force of gravity. So it is with us. We are so depraved that God must “draw” us to Himself. While we were dead in transgression, He made us alive together with Christ (Ephesians 2:4-5).

G.I. Williamson in his study guide for The Westminster Confession of Faith writes: “Regeneration is something that man has no part in, so far as doing anything is concerned. He is wholly passive therein. He is not performing or operating in regeneration. Rather, he is operated upon, and the result of that operation is that he has another heart, mind, or soul. This regeneration is closely associated with the preaching of the gospel (in ordinary cases) but it is not the gospel which regenerates. It is the Holy Spirit. We may think of the Word of God as the instrument employed by God to effect his regeneration, but the regenerating is done, not by the gospel itself, but only by the Holy Spirit who is pleased to operate through it. This regeneration effects an essential change in the whole soul – the reason, the emotions, and the will. Such a one who is regenerated begins, immediately upon regeneration, to think differently, to feel differently, and to will differently than before. And because this is so, he will thankfully accept the free offer of the gospel. So God’s call becomes effectual. It is effectual in every such case. Every such elect person repents and believes. And he does so because he begins to act out of a new nature created or implanted by generation.” p. 90

No condemnation now I dread; Jesus, and all in him, is mine!
Alive in him, my living Head, and clothed in righteousness divine,
bold I approach th’eternal throne, and claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Amazing love! How can it be that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

Every time you pray this week, thank God for His sovereignty in salvation. Thank Him for His unconditional love. Stand in amazement of His total provision. Know with certainty the reality of heaven. Express your gratitude and joy for God’s work of redemption in your life.

May God richly bless you this week as you rejoice in His eternal provision,

Pastor Mark