In our last articles, we looked at the spiritual condition of man. Just to recap, man’s thoughts are evil from his youth, his heart is deceitful, he does not seek God, he is dead in sin, and is by nature a child of wrath. Man left to himself will never choose God. Man’s very nature is inclined to sin. It must be understood that man does not make decisions contrary to his nature. Since man is dead in sin, for him to choose Christ would be contrary to his desires. What then could all of a sudden make a person who is in the spiritual condition as described above (which all men are) desire to repent and embrace Christ as Lord? The answer is found in the next subject we are going to explore, Regeneration.
The popular view among many within the Christian church is that being born again comes after repentance and faith. A person believes, then as a result of that, he or she is born again; however, as we have seen, man left to himself will never choose God. Contrary to the popular view, the Bible teaches that regeneration comes before repentance and faith. Regeneration is the theological term for the rebirth or being born again. R.C. Sproul states, “Regeneration is the work of the Holy Spirit upon those who are spiritually dead. The Spirit recreates the human heart, quickening it from spiritual death to spiritual life.” God’s word teaches that the Spirit makes us alive in Christ. Christians do not ask or will to be regenerated. In their fallen state, they do not want Him. It is God who causes people to be born again before they would ever want Him or choose Him.
This idea may be difficult for some to embrace; therefore, it is important that the Scriptures themselves be examined. God’s word says in John 1:12, 13, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” John teaches that those who received Him were first born of Him. Christians receive the merits of Christ through faith; however, John says the new birth come first. Man is first born of God, and then exercises the faith which God also gives. Faith is also a gift of God and does not originate within man. Ephesians 2:8, 9 are Scriptures that many appeal to for evidence that salvation is only by God’s grace through faith, and rightly so. A very interesting thing about these verses is the statement, “and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” What is the word “that” in reference to? “That” what not of yourselves? In this passage, the antecedent of the word “that” is faith. Faith is the gift and it is not of man. It is given to man from God.
Understanding that regeneration precedes conversion (repentance and faith) is vital. Not all will come to God because not will be regenerated. If all were, then all would come. Not all will come, which means that God has not granted the blessing of regeneration to all. If God was obligated to give this blessing to all, then salvation would no longer be by grace. This will be discussed in the next article.
Joshua Banks is senior pastor and founder of Shepherd’s Rock Bible
Church in Kingsport, TN. He holds a Bachelors degree in Ministry from
Luther Rice University, a Master of Arts in Theological Studies, and a
Master of Divinity both from Liberty University. Joshua and his wife
Amanda, along with their 5 children, reside in Gate City, VA.