Christianity 201

March 13, 2015

Biblical Regeneration

I’ve been reading Arthur Sido for years, but other than one brief mention here 14 months ago, I see we have never included his writing here at Christianity 201. His blog is called The Voice of One Crying in Suburbia, and if you follow a number of online writers, I encourage you to bookmark it. Begin by clicking the title below to read today’s thoughts at source, and then look around at his other articles.

Regeneration Is Not An Attitude

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Cor 5:17)

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:1-8)

Perhaps the most misunderstood aspect of salvation in the broader evangelical church, up and down the spectrum, is the simple truth that salvation is entirely a work of God. Every bit of it. Jesus didn’t die to make good men better or to create a potential, possible salvation maybe for anyone pious enough to grab it, a kind of faith meritocracy. Salvation is nothing less than a miracle, a greater miracle than parting the Red Sea or knocking down the walls of Jericho or Jesus walking on water, feeding the multitude or healing the sick and blind.

Instead of embracing the awesome and fearful image of a God who can and does save as He desires, we make salvation into a decision people make like deciding which house to buy or whether to go to Burger King or McDonalds. That decisional sovereignty might make sense if a right standing with God is predicated on your current attitude but that is not what Scripture teaches.

What troubles me about the language of “personal relationship with Jesus” and “Jesus wants a relationship not a religion” that is so in vogue in religious circles these days, other than the obvious issue of it not being anywhere in the Bible, is that it sidesteps the necessity of regeneration. There is no relationship with Christ apart from a supernatural act of regeneration and adoption. The “relationship” between an unregenerate man and God is one of an enemy and a criminal who will be held to account with no hope of acquittal. You can talk about your “personal relationship with Jesus” all you like but it is good for nothing more than making you look like a moral person in the eyes of your fellow man. It certainly changes nothing in your standing before God. Only being regenerate counts, only being born-again. That is why it is so maddening and inane when people talk about avowed unbelievers like Gandhi as if they are paragons of Christian virtues when the one thing that matters most in the Gospel was absent from their lives. They were never born again and therefore will not partake in life eternal. I have no problem with saying that Gandhi and anyone else who refuses to bow the knee to Christ in this life will face an eternal hell, one that is infinitely just. I take no pleasure in it but I would be ashamed to deny what Christ taught.

When a person is regenerated, it is not merely the taking on of a new attitude. A Christian who has been born-again is something completely new. He hasn’t merely changed his mind. He was dead and now he is alive again. He was an enemy of God, a child of wrath and now he is reconciled to God and a child of The Most High. One does not waffle back and forth like a particularly fickle adolescent girl, this day, this hour in love with God and saved and the next falling out of love and unsaved. Salvation is not a spectrum where you get to 50% +1 units of saved and you get in (unless you slide back to 50% – 1 right before  you die). It is all or nothing. You are born-again or you are not. If you are, you are in the Kingdom of God, adopted and justified. If you are not you will never see the Kingdom no matter how many good works and acts of religious piety you perform.

When the church that has a doctrine un-moored from the necessity of regeneration it ceases to be the church of Jesus Christ. It might be a swell place to hang out, it may feed lots of poor people, it might have a fat bank account but it is not the church, the both invisible and visible temporal embodiment of the Kingdom of God. We are in real danger of losing this most precious, most necessary doctrine of regeneration. If we do we have nothing to offer the world but our own piety and that will save no one from the judgment to come.

You must be born again.

It doesn’t get much clearer than that.

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