Archive for the ‘Regeneration’ Category

Interesting Observations from Benedict XVI

April 11, 2012

I am no fan of Benedict XVI. I pray for his salvation, but I fully agree with the Westminster divines about the nature of his office. That said, he made an interesting observation, according to the Vatican Information Service, in his remarks on April 11, 2012, during the morning general audience.

VIS reports:

Benedict XVI explained how on the evening of the day of the Resurrection the disciples were at home behind locked doors, full of fear and doubt at the recollection of the passion of their Lord. “This situation of anguish changed radically when Jesus arrived. He entered through the closed doors, was among them and brought them peace”, peace which “for the community became source of joy, certainty of victory, trusting reliance on God”.

Slightly later on comes the interesting twist:

“Today too the Risen One enters our homes and hearts, although sometimes the doors are closed”, the Pope said, “He enters bringing joy and peace, life and hope, gifts we need for our human and spiritual rebirth”. Only He can put an end to division, enmity, rancour, envy, mistrust and indifference. Only He can give meaning to the lives of those who are weary, sad and without hope.

Here’s the good point, intentional or not. Sometimes – no always – the doors of men’s hearts are closed to the gospel. By nature, we are all children of wrath and haters of God. Yet God is not blocked by closed doors. If He wishes, he can pass through the doors, bringing regeneration.
VIS also describes Benedict XVI as saying:

However, the Lord knew that His followers were still afraid. “For this reason He breathed upon them and regenerated them in His Spirit. This gesture was the sign of the new creation. With the gift of the Holy Spirit which came from the Risen Christ, a new world began”.

There is no indication in the report that Benedict XVI put together the pieces in this way, but it is interesting how the observations he provided so fittingly describe a monergistic description of conversion.

Also interesting are his comments about regeneration occurring in the breathing upon them. One should be careful about reading too much into the English language report of a general audience comment that likely is original in another language, but it is interesting nonetheless. Were the disciples not previously regenerated by baptism? Was their original baptism not sacramental? If not, why not?

The teachings of Benedict XVI during these general audience are “official” teachings in some sense, and are even characterized as “catechesis.” But Roman theology does not – to my knowledge – consider them “infallible” teachings.


Baptized Children Should Know Their Election?

April 19, 2010

So then, for those who are baptized (for those in God’s covenant), a proper sense of identity involves knowing that they are chosen by God to receive grace and inherit glory with all his people, and that they are called to live with God and for God forever with all his people, fulfilling the purposes for which he made his human creatures.

I was surprised to find the above paragraph on an OPC website (here), attributed to Benjamin W. Miller, who is presently an associate pastor at the Franklin Square OPC. I don’t mean to suggest that Pastor Miller is in any way associated with the Federal Vision, although my criticism of Pastor Miller’s argument is similar to the criticism I would have of certain Federal Vision ideas. Pastor Miller eagerly makes reference to the fact that certain covenant membership is specifically visible, and he does so in this very paragraph. My understanding is that some (if not all) Federal Vision proponents refuse to acknowledge the visible/invisible distinction. The first portion of the paragraph states:

These people are visibly identified as the households of those who profess the Christian faith, on whom God places his covenant name in baptism. They are nourished on Christ, the covenant Mediator, as he gives himself to his people through the means of grace in his church. Their lives are progressively renovated to worship God (cultus) and to work for God (culture).

With respect to Pastor Miller, however, I think he’s overstated his case. The children of believers are certainly visibly and outwardly members of the covenant. However, those children may or may not be nourished spiritually, for the spiritual nourishment of Christ is associated with invisible covenant membership of which regeneration and faith (not their sacrament, baptism) is the entrance.

While it is permitted to hold to views of presumptive regeneration in the OPC, it seems that Pastor Miller may have taken his position of presumptive regeneration too far. Those who are only visibly identified are provided with the means of grace, but they may not be provided with grace. Christ nourishes his people through the church, but as with the Old Testament church – not all are Israel which are of Israel.

There is real danger in attempting to discern one’s election based solely and specifically on membership in the visible covenant, particularly for those whose membership is as a result of household baptism. The danger is not merely hypothetical: we have the example of the Jews to remind us of the fact that true circumcision – true membership into the covenant – is inward circumcision of the heart.

While children in the covenant ought to be reminded of their identity, they also ought to be reminded of the fact that their membership is presently external and visible until by repentance and faith, as instrumental means, they are justified before God and become true children of Abraham by faith.


Arminianism and Natural Birth

August 20, 2008

Joshua Lim at Reformed Blogging has an interesting post on Arminianism and Natural Birth (link) (Mitch has pointed out that there is something wrong with the link. The post can be found via the following link, about 3/4 of the way down the page – backup link). He states fairly succinctly this particular problem that is posed for Arminianism. More could be said, of course, but the main point is articulated, and worth reading.

Celebrating the Release of Prisoners

July 14, 2008

Today the French celebrate “Bastille Day,” a day on which the rebellious mob of the French Revolution overwhelmed the security of France’s most famous prison, the Bastille, and released its prisoners. I have a proposal this year to remember on this day God’s gracious act of regeneration. It is a bit incongruous, I suppose to liken the Sovereign setting free the rebels, as opposed to the rebels overthrowing the sovereign, but perhaps the irony will provide a much-needed reminder of the work of our Most High King!

Isaiah 42:6-7
6I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; 7To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.

It is by regeneration that our eyes are opened. It is by regeneration that our bondage to sin is broken, and the shackles of slavery to the flesh are shattered. It is the Holy Spirit working in regeneration that opens our eyes to the truth, so that we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Isaiah 49:8-9
8Thus saith the LORD, In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee: and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages; 9That thou mayest say to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Shew yourselves. They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all high places.

This again has the same concept. I should point out that both passages have a double fulfillment. A first fulfillment was in the return of Judah from Babylon. The second and greater fulfillment is in our salvation from sin.

Zechariah 9:11 As for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water.

As you can see, the prophet Isaiah is not alone in describing God’s work of salvation in such terms. It is the Holy Spirit that regenerates, but he does so on the basis of the blood of the covenant: the blood symbolized in the water of baptism.

This is not simply my teaching, but the teaching of Peter the Apostle, who wrote by divine inspiration:

1 Peter 3:18-22
18For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: 19By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; 20Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. 21The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: 22Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.

So then, we may glorify God singing Psalm 102:

Psalm 102:19-22
19For he hath looked down from the height of his sanctuary; from heaven did the LORD behold the earth; 20To hear the groaning of the prisoner; to loose those that are appointed to death; 21To declare the name of the LORD in Zion, and his praise in Jerusalem; 22When the people are gathered together, and the kingdoms, to serve the LORD.

Here’s one proposed metered version from Scottish Metrical Psalter:

He from his sanctuary’s height
hath downward cast his eye;
And from his glorious throne in heav’n
the Lord the earth did spy;

That of the mournful prisoner
the groanings he might hear,
To set them free that unto death
by men appointed are:

That they in Sion may declare
the Lord’s most holy name,
And publish in Jerusalem
the praises of the same;

When as the people gather shall
in troops with one accord,
When kingdoms shall assembled be
to serve the highest Lord.

Praise be to our Gracious Prison-Breaking Savior!


Misuse of Ezekiel 18, especially Ezekiel 18:20

April 26, 2008


It seems that the most frequently cited passage against original sin is probably Ezekiel 18:20.

Ezekiel 18:20 The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.

Taken out of context, this verse might seem quite helpful to the position against Original Sin. Once we read it in context, though, such a view of the verse collapses, for the verse is part of a larger rhetorical message, namely, if you repent, you will be saved – regardless of the sins of your parents or children. We’ll see that now, as we turn to the text.


The chapter is a response to the Jewish (extra-Scriptural) proverb, “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” The proverb is a challenge to God’s fairness. In essence, the proverb is the complaining proverb a people suffering for their sins, but seeking to place the blame elsewhere. God responds to this proverb by telling the people that they should not make excuses: if they will repent, they will be saved.

Detailed Exegesis

By the “sour grapes” proverb, the people are, in essence, saying that they have done everything right, but God is still punishing them, because their fathers were wicked. We can see that this is not something unique to the Jews of Ezekiel’s day:

Matthew 23:29-32
29Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, 30And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. 31Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. 32Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers.

You see the Pharisees, like their physical and spiritual ancestors were outwardly religious. They condemned their fathers – but they were not really any better. They did not have the prophets, but they let the greatest prophet of all, John the Baptist, be beheaded. They did not have Isaiah, but they had him of whom Isaiah prophesied, and they slew him.

In fact, they were not right with God. They may have blamed their fathers for the Roman occupation, but they did not deserve better, and they and their children were punished for their sin by the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

The gist of the proverbs seems to be a comparison to a situation in which a child is born deformed, on account of the father eating bad grapes before conceiving the child. Thus, the child is punished with bad teeth because of the father’s bad judgment, or perhaps even his simple mistake.

The underlying theme is that this is unfair. Why should a child be punished for something someone else did? The human mind, full of autonomy (in Ezekiel’s day, in Jesus’ day, and in our day), doesn’t like the idea of responsibility that is outside an individual’s control.

God answers to Israel saying that will “not have occasion any more to use this proverb.”

He begins by relying on his sovereignty: “All souls are mine,” God says, “equally the soul of the father and of the child.” God does not stop there but continues, “the soul that sins shall die.”

This is God’s rhetorical comprise to the complainers. He tells them up front that he can do what he wants with the souls of men – with their lives. The are all his. He has decreed that those who sin will die. This is his right as Creator.

In verses 5-9, God describes a hypothetical righteous man. This righteous man obeys God’s law down to even the ceremonial details of not sleeping with his wife during her period. He does everything right, and God says that such a man will live.

Then, in verses 10-13, God describes a hypothetical son of the righteous man. This son does not follow in his father’s footsteps. Instead, this son is a robber, a murderer, and an adulterer. He does do everything right – in fact he does everything wrong, and God says that such a man will surely die.

Finally, in verses 14-17, God describes a hypothetical son of the wicked man. This son does not follow in his father’s footsteps. Instead, he repents of his father’s sins (“seeth all his father’s sins which he hath done, and considereth, and doeth not such like”) and lives righteously. God says that such a son will live, and that God will not punish such a son for the iniquity of the wicked father.

In verse 18, God clarifies that nevertheless the father who was wicked will nevertheless die for his iniquity. In other words, his righteous son will not redeem the father’s wickedness.

But the people are very stubborn. They ask, “Why? doth not the son bear the iniquity of the father?” The think they are very clever, because they remember the law:

Exodus 34:7 Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.

But they do not understand God’s point. So, God answers them: “When the son hath done that which is lawful and right, and hath kept all my statutes, and hath done them, he shall surely live.” God’s point is to convict the complaining people of their sin.

God even goes further. He offers the people a morality of pure individualism: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him. “

It is as though God says, “Oh, so you want to be considered on your own individual merits: fine, let it be so.” It’s to their condemnation, not their justification.

God explains further that He will even go further and permit repentance: “But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live.”

Notice the parallel to the first situation. In the first situation, the person has a wicked father, but he lives righteously, and God lets him live. In the second situation, the person is himself wicked, but he repents, and God lets him live.

You see, if God will turn aside judgment from those who repent, then it does not matter that the father sinned. If a person will repent (see what his father did and do otherwise – or see what he himself has done and do otherwise) he will live.

God completes his thought regarding the acceptability of repentance for life with this comment (which has itself often been misunderstood): “Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?”

What God is saying is that he has not ruled out repentance – that the fact that the wages of sin are death, and that children bear the iniquities of their fathers, these facts do not make God out to be a God who simply wants men to sin and die. No, God has permitted life even for sinners, through repentance.

That this is what God means can be seen not only from the context above, but from God’s own explanation by comparison: “But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die.”

God provides a comparison: if a wicked man repents he will live, and if a righteous man apostatizes, he will die.

But the people still refuse to acknowledge God’s justice. They say, “The way of the Lord is not equal.” This is a serious and indeed blasphemous charge against God. Note that “not equal” is the etymological root of “iniquity.” They are basically charging God with sin.

God responds with justified indignation: “O house of Israel; Is not my way equal? are not your ways unequal?” God convicts the people of Israel of sin. He is righteous, they are sinners.

Again, the people say, “The way of the Lord is not equal.”
And again, God replies: “Hear now, O house of Israel; Is not my way equal? are not your ways unequal?”

God then repeats essentially the same thing he just said. First, if a righteous man apostacizes, he will die: “When a righteous man turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and dieth in them; for his iniquity that he hath done shall he die.” Second, if a wicked man repents, he will live: “Again, when the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive. Because he considereth, and turneth away from all his transgressions that he hath committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die.”

Again, a third time the people say, “The way of the Lord is not equal.”
And again, God replies: “Hear now, O house of Israel; Is not my way equal? are not your ways unequal?”

So, God gives them one last chance to repent, and he makes clear that this what he is offering, regardless of their fathers’ sins, regardless of their own sins, and yet – in doing so – he reveals the missing link in the chain:

“Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord GOD. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin. Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.”

Did you notice what is the missing link in their chain? “Make you a new heart and a new spirit.” That’s what they need – something they cannot provide for themselves.


We have seen that the passage is talking about repentance, and how inherited guilt is no bar to repentance. We may still repent and live – and that God has provided the opportunity for repentance. On the other hand, we have also learned that repentance requires a drastic change in a person. A change of heart. As we learn from other parts of Ezekiel (and other parts of the Bible), that’s something God does:

Ezekiel 11:19 And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh:

Ezekiel 36:26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.

Thus, we pray with the Psalmist:

Psalm 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

That is a prayer to be prayed by anyone who finds himself in sin – prayer for a repentant and contrite heart, so that we may turn from our sins and live.


Regeneration Before Faith

April 13, 2008

I’m still in the process of finishing a series on the subject line of this post, but Steve Camp has prepared an interesting post on the subject. It’s interesting and forceful. (link)

He also includes an interesting graphic (link), that I had not seen before. I don’t know if it is own work, but it is certainly well done graphically.

Praise be to the God who saves by grace alone!


Heart and Ear Circumcision

February 22, 2008

I happened to be reading and came across this gem:


He saith also again concerning our ears how he hath circumcised our heart. The Lord saith in the prophet, They have hearkened unto me with the hearing of their ears; and again, he saith, They that are afar off shall hear with their ears; they shall know what I have done; and be ye circumcised, saith the Lord, in your heart; and again, Hear, O Israel, for thus saith the Lord thy God; and again the Spirit of the Lord prophesied, Who is he that wisheth to live for ever? let him hearken unto the voice of my Son.

And again he saith, Hear, O heaven, and give ear, O earth, for the Lord hath spoken these things for a testimony. And again he saith, Hearken unto the voice of the Lord, ye rulers of this people. And again he saith, Hearken ye children unto the voice of one crying in the wilderness.

To this end, therefore, hath he circumcised our hearing, that when we hear his word, we should believe; for the circumcision in which they trust is done away with.

For he hath said that circumcision is not that which was made in the flesh; but they have transgressed, for an evil angel hath deluded them. He saith unto them, These things saith the Lord your God, —here I find a new commandment—Sow not among thorns, but be ye circumcised unto your Lord. And what saith he? Circumcise the hardness of your hearts, and harden not your neck. And again, Behold, saith the Lord, all the Gentiles are uncircumcised in their foreskin, but this people is uncircumcised in their hearts.


Who is this Calvinistic writer? Who is it that believes that God circumcised our hearing, that when we hear his word, we should believe? The answer is the author of the Epistle of Barnabas (usually thought not actually to be written by the companion of Paul).

Our knowledge of the content of the book is largely thanks to its inclusion in the Codex Sinaiticus, and has been dated to the first or second century (generally between A.D. 70 – 150).

The translation above is Charles Hoole’s (I have not verified its accuracy against the Greek) and is available via Google Books here (link).

Praise be to God for the Irresistable grace of Circumcision of heart, mind, eyes, and ears,


Except a Man be Born Again, He Cannot See the Kingdom of God

January 27, 2008

Regeneration Precedes Faith

This is the first part of a response to Kangaroo|Dort. It is the positive exposition.

John 3:2-13
2The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. 3Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

4Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?

5Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. 8The wind bloweth where it listeth, and 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.

9Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?

10Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? 11Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. 12If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? 13And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.

What is it that Jesus was conveying? Jesus was explaining that it is necessary to be regenerate in order to be saved. What did Jesus mean?

Jesus was challenging Nicodemus’ assertion that, “We know that thou art a teacher come from God.” Jesus knew well that the Sanhedrin rejected him. Thus, a little later, Jesus points out, “If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?” But before he gets there, he explains to Nicodemus why it is that not everyone believes.

It is necessary to be born of the Spirit in order to understand the things of the Spirit and consequently in order to believe the things of the Spirit. Furthermore, while we can see the effects of regeneration, it’s like the wind: we don’t see where it came from or where it is going next. The Spirit’s action is invisible, and beyond our control.

Someone might object that to “see the kingdom of God” and to “enter into the kingdom of God” is a reference to heaven. This is incorrect for two major reasons:

1) What would be the point in context of telling Nicodemus that one has to be regenerate in order to go to heaven? I suppose one might assert that it is an example of “heavenly things” that Jesus mentions later, but it itself is really something that happens here on earth. Thus, to assert that it means that one must be regenerate to pass through the pearly gates, just does not fit the context.

2) Recall that the “kingdom of God” has a primary reference to salvation of one’s soul. Thus:

Luke 17:21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.

Mark 1:14-15
14Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.

In other words, seeing the kingdom of God is appreciation of the gospel message. Entering into the kingdom of God is repenting and believing the gospel. Neither is possible without regeneration.

Why is that? Why is the rebirth necessary?

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.

Paul’s explanation is that the rebirth is necessary because man by nature thinks that the things of God are foolishness! It’s not because the natural man does not have enough information, or because he needs a better teacher, it is because the natural man cannot understand spiritual things.

Indeed, he is not able to know them. He does not have that ability. This is contrary to the teachings of the Pelagians and similar modernists who assert that all men have the ability to understand spiritual things. After all, their argument goes, if God commands men to believe, he must give them the ability to do so. As can be seen from this verse: that does not follow. Instead, natural men does not receive the things of the Spirit and cannot.

This same principle is confirmed elsewhere in John’s gospel:

John 1:12-13
12But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

Those who are believing on the name of God are they which were born of God.

But What about Prevenient Grace?

Someone who was willing to be subservient to the Scripture passages above, and yet preserve for all men the ability to believe, might argue that all men receive the new birth, and that not all make proper use of it. In other words, they would seem to say that Paul’s comments about the natural man demonstrate that everyone has been given grace by God, so that there are no natural men. Let us, therefore, look at what else Paul says:

Galatians 4:28-29
28Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. 29But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.

In other words, the natural men (those born after the flesh) continue to persecute the regenerate men (those born after the spirit). Paul knew this from first hand experience: before his eyes were opened he persecuted the church.

Galatians 1:13 For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it:

Thus, we can see that natural men do exist. There are those who are not born again.

Romans 8:5-10
5For 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. 6For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 8So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. 9But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. 10And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

Here again we see the same principle, the natural, carnal mind is God’s enemy and not only is rebellious to God but cannot be otherwise. The only solution is for the Spirit of God to dwell in you.

We see the same themes in Peter’s writings as well:

1 Peter 4:3-6
3For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: 4Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you: 5Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead. 6For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.

Many men in the flesh think we Christians are strange because we do not live according to the sexual revolution, according to the culture of drugging and excessive drinking, and because we do not worship without even graphical representations of our God. Some even speak evil of Christians for being too austere, too “iconophobic,” or even too “puritanical.”

Men in the flesh simply cannot understand how we devalue such things.

The reason for the difference is simple:

1 Peter 1:21-23
21Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God. 22Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: 23Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.

John explains the cause and effect relation in more detail in his first catholic epistle:

1 John 2:29 If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.

1 John 3:9 Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.

1 John 5:1 Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.

1 John 5:4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.

1 John 5:18 We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.

Those are the effects of being born of God:

– doing righteousness;
– avoiding sin;
– loving/knowing God;
– believing that Jesus is the Messiah; and
– overcoming the world / having faith.

Titus 3:5
5Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; 7That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

There is the flow: regeneration/renewal, justification (by grace, not works), and finally eternal life.

We can also see the same thing expressed other ways in Scripture:

John 9:39-41
39And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind. 40And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? 41Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.

Blindness is the natural state of man. Like the man in the preceding passage, men are born blind. They cannot see the Lord. They cannot believe on Him. But Jesus opens their eyes and they believe. That’s the progression.

Mark 7:32-37
32And they bring unto him one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech; and they beseech him to put his hand upon him. 33And he took him aside from the multitude, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spit, and touched his tongue; 34And looking up to heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened. 35And straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain. 36And he charged them that they should tell no man: but the more he charged them, so much the more a great deal they published it; 37And were beyond measure astonished, saying, He hath done all things well: he maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.

Just as he opens the eyes of the blind, Jesus opens the ears of the mouth and the tongue of the mute.

And the analogies do not stop there:

Matthew 11:5 The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.

Luke 7:22 Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached.

Recall that this is what the prophets foretold:

Isaiah 29:18 And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness.

Isaiah 42:18 Hear, ye deaf; and look, ye blind, that ye may see.

Isaiah 35:3-10
3Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. 4Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you. 5Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. 6hen shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. 7And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes. 8And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein. 9No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there: 10And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

You see, there is the picture. God miraculously saves those whom Christ redeemed. That is why it is logically, soteriologically, and rationally necessary that regeneration precede faith. It must be that way, for the deaf cannot hear, the blind cannot see, the lame cannot come, the dead cannot respond. There must be life given and then we can run to Christ, and worship him, like the man born blind:

John 9:1-38
1And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. 2And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
3Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. 4I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. 5As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. 6When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, 7And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.
8The neighbours therefore, and they which before had seen him that he was blind, said, Is not this he that sat and begged?
9Some said, This is he: others said, He is like him:
but he said, I am he.
10Therefore said they unto him, How were thine eyes opened?
11He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I went and washed, and I received sight.
12Then said they unto him, Where is he?
He said, I know not.
13They brought to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind. 14And it was the sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes. 15Then again the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. He said unto them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see.
16Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day.
Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them.
17They say unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eyes?
He said, He is a prophet.
18But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind, and received his sight, until they called the parents of him that had received his sight. 19And they asked them, saying, Is this your son, who ye say was born blind? how then doth he now see?
20His parents answered them and said, We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind: 21But by what means he now seeth, we know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not: he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself. 22These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue. 23Therefore said his parents, He is of age; ask him.
24Then again called they the man that was blind, and said unto him, Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner.
25He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.
26Then said they to him again, What did he to thee? how opened he thine eyes?
27He answered them, I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again? will ye also be his disciples?
28Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses’ disciples. 29We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is.
30The man answered and said unto them, Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes. 31Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth. 32Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. 33If this man were not of God, he could do nothing.
34They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out.
35Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God?
36He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?
37And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee.
38And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.

Even so it is with us: we were blind, but now we see. And we believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and we trust in Him alone for salvation, worshipping Him.

May Christ be praised!


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