The Indwelling of the Holy Spirit and Regeneration

This is an extended version of the article at SBC Today which begins with Jesus’ discourse with Nicodemus in John 3.

A lot has been written about Jesus’ statement to Nicodemus, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (Jn 3:3 NKJV) Jesus repeats Himself in verse 7, “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’” There is no question as to the importance of being born again but there is a lot of debate as to what Jesus meant when He said what He said. What did Jesus mean when He said, “You must be born again?”

Basically there are two primary interpretations and both are related to belief, repentance and faith. One posits being born again as being essential for belief, repentance and faith to take place and the other makes belief, repentance and faith essential for being born again. This article will examine these two positions in light of the Scriptural significance of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as it relates to being born again.

Perhaps the best place to start with this endeavor is with the Words of Jesus Himself in John 3: 5 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again’.”

What is clear in this passage is that Jesus speaks of two births: a physical birth and a Spiritual birth. Each is essential if one wants to see the Kingdom of God. Verse 8 offers an unusual statement from the Savior. “8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” What is Jesus saying here? Proponents of the Born again prior to repentance and saving faith make reference to this passage to say, “God chooses those who are born again and those individuals repent and believe and are converted or justified. The work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration is like the wind; it goes where it goes and makes its presence known. However, if one simply reads the text all it says is this: being born again is like the wind; even though it is not visible its presence is felt. It is like the words of the hymn, “you ask me how I know He lives, He lives within my heart.” So it is with everyone who is born again. While one may not be able to prove its existence, one can most certainly experience it.

Nicodemus asks Jesus, “How can these things be?” and Jesus’ answer is quite interesting. He compares being born again to an event that took place in the Old Testament where the children of Israel were grumbling and complaining about God’s provisions for them in the wilderness and they referred to the manna God provided as “worthless bread.” This is an indirect reference to Jesus who is the Bread of Life. (John 6:41-51) God sent poisonous serpents to bite the people and they began to die. The people confessed their sin and pleaded for Moses to intercede on their behalf. “8 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.’” (Nu 21:8-9 NKJV)

Here is Jesus’ commentary on Numbers 21 and being born again: “14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 ‘He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.’” (Jn 3:14-18 NKJV) It is clear in this passage that being born again is related to looking at the serpent that was raised up; those who look up to the cross and believe will not perish but have everlasting life. Those who are condemned are those who do not look up at the cross and the resurrected Savior and do not believe.

Consider verse 19 and following: “19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” (Jn 3:19-21 NKJV) This is a very important statement. Jesus is of course the Light of the World. (John 8:12, 9:5) Because men love darkness they do not come to the light, not because they are unable to do so as portrayed in the doctrine of total depravity and inability but rather because they choose not to come to the light because their attitudes and actions are revealed for what they are! It is not that men cannot come to the light; Jesus clearly indicates that they choose not to because their deeds are evil. Jesus says, “he who does come to the truth (Jesus) comes to the light that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”

Now how does this passage relate to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit? How does regeneration relate to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit? One of two things has to be true; regeneration is the result of the indwelling or it is not. If regeneration is the result of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit then the issue of the role of regeneration as it related to conversion is equally related to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the salvific process. Jesus in verse 36 makes the following statement: “36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” Paul makes the following statement in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Here being born again in Paul’s mind is related to being “in Christ.” In Romans 8:9 Paul writes, “We should be led by the Spirit of God. If the Spirit of God does not dwell in us, we do not belong to God.” One thing appears clear: apart from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit or ones being “in Christ” there is no new birth or regeneration.

In Romans 8 the Apostle Paul is clear that the presence of the Holy Spirit in the heart of an individual is essential to his being “born again.” Verse 1: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” In verse 8 Paul writes, “So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” Those who are in the flesh are designated as those who are not in Christ or do not have the Spirit dwelling in their hearts. Paul continues, “9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. 10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. Clearly to be born again one MUST have the Spirit living in his heart for if one does not have the Spirit in his heart that one does not belong to God. Regeneration is not possible apart from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Consider the following admonition from Paul in 2 Co 13:5-6: “5 Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you? — unless indeed you are disqualified. 6 But I trust that you will know that we are not disqualified.” How is one to know if he is in the faith or not? If Christ is “in you” then Paul says that person is qualified and in the faith. In Colossians 1:27 Paul makes this declaration: “To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is clearly the means of regeneration in the Scriptures. So the question now is this: does the Holy Spirit take up residence in the heart of the unregenerate so that he is able to believe, repent and be saved or does the Holy Spirit take up residence in the heart of an individual who has believed, repented and is then saved?

Consider the following passages. At Pentecost, “38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Ac 2:38 NKJV) In 1 John 4 points to the importance of confession in the salvific process: “13 By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. (1 Jn 4:13-15 NKJV)

In Romans 10 Paul writes, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” Here Paul notes the reason many of the Jews had not been saved. He says that they sought their own righteousness and did not submit to the righteousness of God. It was not that they could not submit, Paul says they did not or would not submit to God’s righteousness. What was required of them? They were to believe in Christ who is the end of the law for righteousness for all who believe! It is obvious that believing in Christ is essential for right standing before God. God does not grant right standing in order to believe; He grants right standing because one believes.

Consider Paul’s continued admonition in Romans 10. “8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved’.” Once again, the Scriptures are clear. One must confess the Lord Jesus and believe in one’s heart that God has raised Jesus from the dead to be saved or born again. Those who believe will not be put to shame and those who call on the Name of the Lord shall be saved. Conversion is the result of the Holy Spirit taking up residence in a person’s heart and that takes place after one believes, repents and confesses Christ.

Jesus reiterates this in the Great Commission recorded in Mark’s gospel: “15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” (Mk 16:15-16) One is not regenerated or born again enabling him to believe; one believes and will be saved. When one believes, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in the repentant heart and then he is born again. In Romans 1:16-17 Paul underscores the necessity of believing the gospel so that one might be saved: “16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is available to everyone who believes.

Consider Paul’s word of instruction in Ephesians 1: “13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” (see also 2 Co 1:20-22) Clearly the sealing of the Holy Spirit takes place after one has heard the Word of truth presented in the proclamation of the gospel message and has believed it.

In conclusion, there is no ambiguity in the Scriptures where the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is concerned with respect to being born again or being regenerated. Regeneration is not possible apart from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God’s gift to those who have believed and have repented and trusted God by faith. (Acts 2:38) While some may try to make a case for a temporal or logical position for regeneration preceding repentance and the exercise of saving faith, such is not the case for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Since regeneration is not Scripturally possible apart from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit one must conclude regeneration prior to repentance and saving faith is not possible either.

The lost are not regenerated so they may then repent and by faith trust Christ to be justified or saved; the unregenerate are convicted of their sin and their lost state by the work of the Holy Spirit through the proclamation of the gospel and through believing and repentance, they by faith in the person and the promises of God are converted and justified and receive right standing before God when the Holy Spirit takes up residence in their hearts. This is the clear position presented in Scripture.

An Exegetical Look at John 3

If man’s sin nature is indeed the result of his wrong standing before God, how does God correct this problem? How does an unregenerate individual who is separated from God’s perpetual presence come into God’s presence and experience life as only a relationship with God can provide?

Perhaps the most popular passage of Scripture dealing with one passing from death unto life is set in Jesus’ dialogue with Nicodemus in John 3. Nicodemus who is a religious teacher and probably very wealthy and very popular came to Jesus and began a conversation with Him only to hear Jesus say to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (Jn 3:3 NKJV) Much has been written concerning “being born-again”. If it is necessary to be “born-again” in order to see the kingdom of heaven then more needs to be written on what Jesus meant when He told Nicodemus “you must be born again.” Literally the term “born again” is the translation of two Greek words, γεννάω and ἄνωθεν which mean having been born anew or more probably, from above or from a higher place like heaven or of God. Obviously Nicodemus took Jesus’ statement to mean again because he asked how it would be even possible to enter his mother’s womb a second time and be born again.

5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again’.” (Jn 3:5-7 NKJV) Obviously Jesus introduces two births; one is of water and the other of Spirit. Some have taken the first to be a direct reference to water baptism and from there the tenet of baptismal regeneration has evolved. It would seem plausible that Jesus’ own statement would provide the more correct rendering since He speaks of that which is flesh is born of flesh and that which is spirit is born of the Spirit, being born of water is a direct reference to being born physically and being born of the Spirit is just that, being born or being born spiritually. It is impossible to be born of the Spirit if one has not been born physically; it impossible to be born again unless one has been born the first time.

Jesus makes a statement in verse 8, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
This verse has been whipped around in more ways than a summer thunderstorm. The wind in Jesus’ illustration does not refer to the Spirit but rather to those who are born of the Spirit. Believers hear the sound; they experience the touch of the Holy Spirit but they go where they wish with respect to the convicting and convincing work of the Spirit in and on their sinful hearts. All men need to be born again if they want to see the Kingdom of God.

Nicodemus asks Jesus a very pointed question: How can these things be? Jesus’ answer to Nicodemus is vitally important. He says, “14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. (Jn 3:14-15 NKJV) Jesus is making a direct reference to an account that took place during the wilderness wanderings when the people cried out complaining “against God and against Moses: ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.’ 6 So the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died. 7 Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, ‘We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord that He take away the serpents from us.’ So Moses prayed for the people. 8 Then the Lord said to Moses, ’Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.’ 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived. (Nu 21:5-9 NKJV )

Jesus used this event where God saved His children to explain how one was to be born again to see the Kingdom of God. The provision for the salvation of the children of Israel who had been bitten was made by God. All they had to do was look at the bronze serpent raised up on the pole to live.” “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life or be born again.” “16 For God so loved the world (that has been bitten by sin and is condemned to pay the penalty for that sin) that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (Jn 3:16 NKJV) The world in John 3:16 is paralleled by the world in Moses’ day. They sinned against God by calling God’s provisions to them “worthless bread.” They deserved to die; the bread was everything but worthless because it was what had kept them alive. Interestingly enough, it is the Word of God that is the bread of life for men today. (John 6:35, 48) It was everything but worthless back then and today as well. God’s provisions for salvation are life giving provisions. Just as God chose to save those in the wilderness who deserved to die, so has He once again made provision for sinful men to live by looking to Jesus and believing in in Him. God has lifted Jesus up; all who look up at Him and believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.

Jesus continues: 18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (Jn 3:18NKJV) It is imperative that one keep the illustration in mind as Jesus continues His instruction here. Those who believe are like those who looked up at the serpent on the pole that was raised up for all to see. Those who looked at the serpent lived and those who refused to look up or were not able to look up all died. Those who believe Jesus said are not condemned or no longer condemned but those who do not believe are condemned already. Man’s sin is what condemns him; his belief in Jesus washes away the stain of sin and takes away the penalty and condemnation of sin.

“19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.” Light reveals dirt. Dust and dirt are not visible in the dark. Sin does not seem so bad in the dark where no one is looking and no one knows anybody’s name. Light penetrates the darkness and overcomes darkness and reveals things as they are. 21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” (Jn 3:19-21 NKJV) Looking up is the same as looking into the light. Believing in God removes the condemnation that Jesus has come to reveal to sinful men. The light exposes the sin and allows the sinner to look up and see Jesus and find forgiveness and life.

So, how can all this be? How can one believe and have his sin forgiven and his relationship restored to a position of right standing before a Holy and Sovereign God? How can one be born again or “regenerated” to see the Kingdom of God?

The English word “regeneration” is the translation of the Greek word, παλιγγενεσία which is a compound word from πάλιν (again) and γένεσις (birth). It means simply a new birth, a new beginning, a new order. This term has gained ground in recent years in theological circles especially among its new comers. The issue today concerning regeneration or being born-again is not its necessity but rather its place in the salvific process. Some argue regeneration is the end itself and is synonymous with being born again while others are arguing that regeneration is required for one to be born again. When Jesus told Nicodemus, “you must be born again to see the Kingdom of Heaven” did He mean that being born again made on able to see and understand the Kingdom of God so one could become a child of God or did the new birth Jesus spoke to Nicodemus about refer to the new birth itself that would allow one to see and experience the Kingdom of God?

Once again, the illustration Jesus gave from Numbers would seem to be the best setting to answer this question. Those who looked at the serpent raised up on the pole were instantly healed and saved from the poisonous snake bite. Their looking up did not allow them to be saved; it saved them. In the same respect, in Jesus’ illustration and instruction to Nicodemus, looking up to the Son of Man who was lifted up on the cross saves the one who believes; it does not make salvation possible because one has looked to Jesus; the light of the glorious gospel saves those who believe.

Are There Sins God Cannot Forgive?

According to the tenets of Calvinism, Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for the sins of all who would believe. He did not die for the sins of the unregenerate who would not believe. Since the Bible states that God is omniscient, He must know all things. One must conclude that God knew when He created the world who would and who would not ultimately be saved. Given the certainty of this statement, the question concerning the forgiveness of sin is this: is it God who determines whose sins will be forgiven or is God’s forgiveness determined by free choices made by sinful men? God’s sovereignty limits that discussion to the former. God is sovereign in all things including salvation and so He and He alone determines who is and is not saved and as a result, only those whose sins will be forgiven are placed on the cross and those sins and those alone are atoned for and those are the only sins God can forgive.

Some will try to say that Jesus died for the sins of all men everywhere but that the benefits of the atonement are only available for those for whom God intended them to be effectual. John Hendryx, founder of Monergism.com says that this is completely inconsistent with the tenets of Calvinism and to “to reject limited atonement is to reject total depravity and unconditional election. The four-point Calvinists, therefore, do not really believe in election, but rather, that the natural man still has the moral ability to turn to God on his own without regenerating grace (as if faith was somehow a contribution on our part). Therefore, it is impossible to be a four-point Calvinist and remain consistent.”

Notice another comment from Hendryx: “The value of Christ’s atonement is obviously enough to save 10,000 times 10,000 so the question is not its sufficiency but, rather, God’s intent. The following passage explicitly shows that Jesus understands the Father’s intent:

“This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.”
John 6:39

Jesus shows His intent here is to save all that the Father has given Him, those He has set his affection on from eternity, and no others.” (http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/four-point.html)

Where does John 6:39 make any substantive statement concerning God;s intent where the Atonement is concerned or the specificity of Jesus dying for the sins of a select few? It does not! Jesus is simply saying that He will raise up those the Father has given Him on the last day. What is clear is the meaning of verse 40: “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” Jesus said in verse 35: “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” It can certainly be argued that those the Father has given to the Son are those who believe.

The question is, is it God who caused them to believe or is it the Light that Jesus has brought in to a dark world that convicts men and leads them to repent and believe? Is it the gospel that is proclaimed to a sinful world that the Holy Spirit uses to bring people to their knees in repentance and faith that results in their conversion? Is it the numerous number of testimonies of countless millions who have surrendered their hearts to the Lord and continue to live faithful lives so that allow people to see Jesus at work in their hearts and lives that the Holy Spirit uses to bring people to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ so that in believing in Him people might be saved and will never hunger or thirst again!

Hear the conclusion to this matter. Simply put, according to the tenets of Calvinism, there are sins that God cannot forgive. Calvinism contends only the sins of the elect were atoned for on the cross. The Bible says, “And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.” (Heb 9:22 NKJV) If the sin of the unregenerate were not placed on the cross, God cannot forgive that sin. It is not that He will not do so; scripturally speaking, He cannot do so.

Looks like the Calvinist may have a problem with its concept of the sovereignty of God after all.

The Text and Context of John 10:26

Jesus’ statement to the Pharisees in John 10:26 has garnered a lot of attention and debate concerning an individual’s ability to believe in Jesus. Some have argued that this statement is an obvious reference in support of unconditional election and effectual calling and even limited atonement because it is clear that in Jesus’ own words, an does not believe BECAUSE he is not one of Jesus’ sheep. Since Jesus gave His life for His sheep, there is this idea that Jesus died exclusively for the elect (His sheep) and the elect are those who will believe and the non-elect do not or will not believe because they are not Jesus’ sheep and they never will be.

The following is a look at the text and the context of this very important statement that Jesus made.

 

John Chapter 9

Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. 2 And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.  4 I must work the works of  Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work.  5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

6 When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay. 7 And He said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent). So he went and washed, and came back seeing. (John 9:1-7 NKJ

Notice what Jesus did; He placed clay over this man’s eyes and told him to go and wash in the pool of Siloam. Jesus could have simply said, “Open your eyes to see” and immediately his eyes would have been healed. Just like Abram, this man had to go where Jesus told him to go and do what Jesus told him to do BEFORE he received his sight.

Faith is not something man just possess. Faith is something that possesses man. Faith is both active and passive. This man received his sight because of his personal encounter with the Savior and his willingness to do what Jesus told him to do. His faith demonstrated in his obedience is what gave him his sight.

Listen to the religious leaders of this man’s day,

24 So they again called the man who was blind, and said to him, “Give God the glory! We know that this Man is a sinner. “25 He answered and said, “Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know. One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see.” (John 9:24-25 NKJV)

Notice the response of the Pharisees,

“26 Then they said to him again, “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I told you already, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become His disciples?” 28 Then they reviled him and said, “You are His disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples. 29 We know that God spoke to Moses; as for this fellow, we do not know where He is from.” (John 9:26-29 NKJV)

This man gave testimony to the healing power of God in his life. He told them what happened but they refused to listen. They refused to accept the truth as it was presented to them. The man who was once blind countered their argument that they had no idea where this man was from. Notice his response,

“Why, this is a marvelous thing, that you do not know where He is from; yet He has opened my eyes! 31 Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him. 32 Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind. 33 If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing.” (John 9:30-33 NKJV)

Basically this is the same argument Jesus used when John the Baptist sent his disciples to Him and asked, “are you the Coming One or should we look for another?

22 Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them.  23 And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” (Luke 7:21-23 NKJV PP Mt. 11:5)

The religious leaders dismissed this man’s testimony with the following statement, “You were completely born in sins, and are you teaching us?” And they cast him out.” (John 9:34NKJV)

Jesus once again seeks out this man whose life has been literally transformed in less than 24 hours. He has to be overjoyed by what has happened to him but sorely confused at the same time. Jesus asks the man, “Do you believe in the Son of God?”  (John 9:35 NKJV) We have no idea what this man knew about the Old Testament law. However, we do know that his parents feared the Jews, for the Jews had agreed already that if anyone confessed that He was Christ, he would be put out of the synagogue. (John 9:22-23 NKJV) This man knew the Messiah was coming and as Jesus asked him this question, he understood the significance of it. He answers Jesus with the following question in verse 36,

“Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?” He no doubt already knew the answer to that question! Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you.” 38 Then he said, “Lord, I believe!” And he worshiped Him. (John 9:37-38 NKJV)

Jesus then makes a very interesting statement. 39 And Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.” (John 9:39 NKJV) What does Jesus mean in this statement? A couple of things are obvious. He says “for judgment I have come into this world. This is an interesting statement and the idea of judgment here is one of a matter to be judicially decided, a lawsuit or a case in court. (Strong’s Lexicon G2917) The idea here is that judgment will be based on those who do not see may see and those who do see will be made blind. Here seeing is no doubt associated with believing. This man born blind received his sight and he believed. The religious leaders had their sight and they had all the knowledge they needed to believe but they were blinded by their unbelief. Jesus’ judgment was based on what men did with the knowledge they were given. This judgment would be based on what men did with the Light that He brought into the world. One other note is the setting of Jesus’s statement as well. He is not speaking to the world in a universal sense; He is speaking specifically to the Jewish religious leaders and their religious traditions who were proud, self-confident despisers of the truth. This is obvious in the response from the Pharisees.

“Then some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these words, and said to Him,

“Are we blind also?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains. (John 9:40-41NKJV)

The religious leaders were challenging Jesus’ authority to speak over and against their authority where matters of the law were concerned. They were the experts in the law. Jesus’ response to them is telling. Had they been blind, He said you would have no sin but because you see, your sin remains. This is indeed very interesting. What does Jesus mean when he says they would have no sin?

The Pharisees were responding to Jesus’ statement that was aimed specifically at them in verse 39. They knew Jesus was speaking of them and so they responded accordingly. Keep in mind, to them Jesus is some obscure individual with no training and no official ordination or Jewish scholarly recognition. To them, He is nothing more than an expert in his own mind. So, are we blind too, they ask Jesus in a tone of derision. Now, consider Jesus’ response to them. If you were blind, you would have no sin. There are several interpretations of this statement. Perhaps the best is, “if you were blind, which is in reference to the context of what has taken place and what He has said, you would have no sin.” Well, the obvious reference here is that this is not the case. It is a conditional statement that everyone knew did not apply! They were sinful and they all knew it and so the inference that they were blind did not apply to them. Basically, Jesus was saying in effect, “you are without excuse and ought to hear what I am saying to you and you ought to believe as this man did.”

Jesus points out their own arrogance by saying to them, “but now, you are saying, ‘we see’ so your sin remains.” So what is the point of Jesus’ condemnation to them? “You have all the information you need to believe that I am who I claim to be.” That is exactly what Jesus is saying. They are without excuse and this is the reason Jesus said I have come here in the first place in verse 39, for judgment. Basically though, He is saying you are judging yourselves! They had the Law. They knew the Law. Their pride and arrogance and their self-righteous attitudes were keeping them from hearing and heeding the real Truth which He had come to provide.

There is one final contrast that needs to be noted before going to chapter 10. These Pharisees had no excuse. They had the benefit of knowing and understanding the Law. This stands in stark contrast to the man who was born blind. He had no hope. He had no excuse. His condition was not self-inflicted. He was not responsible for his condition. The Pharisees on the other hand were responsible for their blindness. One final thought; Jesus cured the one who was not responsible for his condition. He heard Jesus’ voice and he did what Jesus told him to do and his blinded eyes were opened. The Pharisees had no excuse for their blindness except for their own pride and obstinance. It seems that this blindness was one that Jesus would not heal or correct.

John Chapter 10

Chapter 10 is quite popular for Jesus’ reference to the sheep and their relationship to the shepherd especially in the area of why people believe in Jesus and why they do not. It is important to remember that this passage is related directly to Jesus’ dealing with spiritual blindness found in   chapter 9. This dialogue found in chapter 10 continues what Jesus began in chapter 9.

So, Jesus says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.  2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.  3 To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  4 And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.  5 Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”  6 Jesus used this illustration, but they did not understand the things which He spoke to them. (John 10:1-6 NKJV)

Jesus moves from the spiritual blindness of the Pharisees to their ability to lead the people. Here Jesus is establishing His authority as the Shepherd. He comes to the front gate with his sheep and the gatekeeper opens the door when he comes to get his sheep and the sheep that went in with him will come out with him. In verse 6, John writes, “they did not understand the things that Jesus spoke to them.” The “they” in this passage is the same “they” in chapter 9; “they” are the Pharisees who are the ones who did not enter the sheepfold through the door.” Verses 1-5 refer speak of and to shepherds in general. Verses 7-10 will speak to The Shepherd for both the sheep and the shepherd.

The three verses that get very little attention in most discussions of chapter 10 and Jesus’ reference to His sheep and their hearing His voice are found in verses 7-10.

“Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.  8 All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.  9 I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.  10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

“Christ is that door; He is the door of the sheep and He is the door for the shepherds. There is no other way into His fold, for there is no other name, under heaven, given among men, whereby men must be saved (Ac 4:12). Jesus says, ” 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.”

Christ is the door to salvation. What is the purpose of a door? It is the passageway that an individual must go through to get from one place to another. So, salvation is the passageway from death unto life and the only way to get to life is to go through Christ. There is no other way to be saved. Period. Notice Jesus’ conditional statement, “If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved.” He goes on to say, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”

Jesus is contrasting His coming to that of the Pharisees who are there to “steal, kill and destroy” as false teachers. He has come to give life and to give it abundantly. He is the well spring of life. (Prov. 16:22)

Jesus goes on,

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.  12 But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them.  13 The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep.” (John 10:11-14 NKJV)

Here Jesus is obviously referring to His sacrificial death on the cross for His sheep. He is identified as “the good Shepherd.” This is in obvious contrast to the religious leaders of His day who are opposing Him at every opportunity. They have criticized Him of healing a man born blind of all things pointing to their own spiritual blindness. Jesus will contrast Himself with the hireling who simply wants a paycheck and will flee at the first sign of danger. The hireling does not care for the sheep; Jesus says that He is more than willing to give His life for the sheep, not His sheep. This is vitally important. Jesus’ death is universal in scope as opposed to being specific.

Jesus died in sinful man’s place to obtain pardon for his sin; Jesus paid the penalty for man’s sin so that he could be set free from the punishment of his sin. Jesus did not his life down for His teaching; He laid it down for the sheep. He did what He did so that He could become the doors that anyone could enter by Him and be saved, and go in and out and find pasture. This is an important note to make because the Pharisees were more concerned with the letter of the law whereas Jesus was more concerned with the people who were affected by the Law. Jesus died for people not the Law.

14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.  15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.”

Jesus knows His sheep; He knows who has and who has not entered by the gate, which is by His blood shed at the cross. His sheep, those who have entered by the gate or the cross, know Him.

16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. (John 10:14-16 NKJV)

This is an obvious reference to the Gentile inclusion into the sheepfold or the universal church.

17 “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again.  18 No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.”

Once again, Jesus reiterates His claim as the good shepherd because of what it is that He has come to this world to do and that is to willingly give His life for the sheep. Now, the Pharisees continue to argue about Jesus and His mission and ministry;

“19 Therefore there was a division again among the Jews because of these sayings. 20 And many of them said, “He has a demon and is mad. Why do you listen to Him?” 21 Others said, “These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?” (John 10:17-21NKJV)

Verse 21 obviously links chapter 10 to the events in chapter 9.

22 Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. 23 And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch. 24 Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, “How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.”25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. Jesus comes into the Temple and He is confronted once again. “Tell us if you are the Messiah.”

The truth is, they were not interested in flowing Him but rather looking for a reason to bring trouble on Him.

Jesus answers them, “26 But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you.” This statement has garnered a lot of attention. Jesus tells the religious leaders that they do not believe because they are not of His sheep. Some argue this statement speaks of unconditional election in that “Jesus did not say they were not His sheep because they did not believe; He said they did not believe because they were not His sheep.” The problem with this rendering of this verse is that the context clearly states that the condition of being one of His sheep is believing in Him (John 10:9). So their unbelief which has kept them from becoming one of Jesus’ sheep is the cause of their continued unbelief.

Notice Jesus continues,

“My sheep (those who have entered by the door of belief and faith in Me) hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.  28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.  29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.  30 I and My Father are one.” (John 10:22-30 NKJV)

In verses 34-38, Jesus makes the following appeal: if you cannot believe Me because of the things I say, because of what you believe the Law and your tradition says, “believe the works (that you have seen Me do), that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.” (John 10:38-39 NKJV) These works are proof that Jesus is who He says He is and that He has come to do what He has said He would do. Faith is rooted in their believing the promises of God! Jesus was telling the religious leaders to listen to what He was saying but to also pay attention to what God was doing in and through Him.

Salvation is available to all who will come to Him by faith through obedience to His Word to be saved.

Instantaneous or Progressive Regeneration

Monergism.com makes reference to statements made by R.C. Sproul in an excerpt from his book, The Mystery of the Holy Spirit. Sproul makes the following statements concerning regeneration in salvific process.

One of the most dramatic moments in my life for the shaping of my theology took place in a seminary classroom. One of my professors went to the blackboard and wrote these words in bold letters: “Regeneration Precedes Faith”

In this scheme of things the initiative falls with us. To be sure, God had sent Jesus to die on the cross before I ever heard the gospel. But once God had done these things external to me, I thought the initiative for appropriating salvation was my job.

These words were a shock to my system. I had entered seminary believing that the key work of man to effect rebirth was faith. I thought that we first had to believe in Christ in order to be born again. I use the words in order here for a reason. I was thinking in terms of steps that must be taken in a certain sequence. I had put faith at the beginning. The order looked something like this:

“Faith – rebirth -justification.”

I hadn’t thought that matter through very carefully. Nor had I listened carefully to Jesus’ words to Nicodemus. I assumed that even though I was a sinner, a person born of the flesh and living in the flesh, I still had a little island of righteousness, a tiny deposit of spiritual power left within my soul to enable me to respond to the Gospel on my own.

A monergistic work is a work produced singly, by one person. The prefix mono means one. The word erg refers to a unit of work. Words like energy are built upon this root. A synergistic work is one that involves cooperation between two or more persons or things. The prefix syn – means “together with.” I labor this distinction for a reason. At issue was this: Is regeneration a monergistic work of God or a synergistic work that requires cooperation between man and God? When my professor wrote “Regeneration precedes faith” on the blackboard, he was clearly siding with the monergistic answer. After a person is regenerated, that person cooperates by exercising faith and trust. But the first step is the work of God and of God alone.

These giants of Christian history derived their view from Holy Scripture. The key phrase in Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians is this: “…even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace have you been saved)” (Eph. 2:5). Here Paul locates the time when regeneration occurs. It takes place ‘when we were dead.’ With one thunderbolt of apostolic revelation all attempts to give the initiative in regeneration to man are smashed. Again, dead men do not cooperate with grace. Unless regeneration takes place first, there is no possibility of faith.

This says nothing different from what Jesus said to Nicodemus. Unless a man is born again first, he cannot possibly see or enter the kingdom of God. If we believe that faith precedes regeneration, then we set our thinking and therefore ourselves in direct opposition not only to giants of Christian history but also to the teaching of Paul and of our Lord Himself.

You may read the summary of Sproul’s book in its entirety by CLICKING HERE.

According to Sproul’s understanding of the salvific process, the unregenerate man is dead in his trespass and sin and as a result, he is totally incapable of responding by faith to God and as Sproul notes, “there is no possibility of faith.” Sproul also indicates the point at which regeneration takes place is instantaneous; while the lost person is in a depraved state, dead in his sin and totally depraved, he is infused with “one thunderbolt of apostolic revelation” which is according to Sproul the irresistible initiative in regeneration that brings about repentance and saving faith and justification is accomplished.

Now with respect to this “one thunderbolt of revelation” or irresistible grace or effectual calling, regeneration would have to be instantaneous or otherwise it would have to be by default progressive and that would mean that at some point an individual would no longer be depraved or unable to begin the process of responding to God. So given the instantaneousness of regeneration or the absence of regeneration, one would have to understand that for the Calvinist, the preaching of the gospel to the unregenerate is useless. Sharing one’s testimony with the unregenerate is a waste of time because they are not even effective much less effectual because of the totally depraved state of the unregenerate individual. Since God’s efficacious calling is solely what brings about regeneration, preaching and teaching and witnessing prior to regeneration have no bearing on one’s repentance and saving faith and justification. Regeneration occurs at God’s sole command and conversion is automatically the result.

This must be understood. The preaching and teaching of the Word of God to the unregenerate cannot be made the means God uses to accomplish the end unless one is willing to relegate the role of regeneration to a progressive one. This would be tantamount to accepting a picture of prevenient grace followed by or leading to irresistible grace. For if regeneration is progressive, then what you have is a form of prevenient grace with an irresistible conclusion and then the question comes into play, what determines when and how prevenient grace becomes irresistible. To counter this possibility is the work of effectual calling in the regeneration process. Effectual calling cannot be progressive but rather must be instantaneous or else it could not be considered effectual.

Given this fact, regeneration as defined and presented by Calvinism does not line up with the Scriptures because the Scriptures are clear, “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Rom 10:17 NKJV) It is clear in the Scripture that the preaching of the gospel is what brings about conversion. Nowhere in the Scripture is it even hinted that regeneration or an efficacious calling is what effectuates conversion. Consider the following passages of Scripture:

14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:

“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace,
Who bring glad tidings of good things!”

16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” 17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Rom 10:14-17 NKJV)

25 Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began 26 but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith — 27 to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen. (Rom 16:25-27 NKJV)

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” (Rom 1:16-17 NKJV)

Even as Paul speaks about the power of the gospel to save those who believe, it is the power of the spoken Word that brings new life; not God’s effectual calling. The gospel has no appeal whatsoever to the person who has not been regenerated. Dead people cannot hear spoken words. This is the foundation to total depravity. It is simple. According to the Calvinist platform, effectual calling and regeneration bring about conversion, not the preaching of the cross or the gospel.

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 20 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 1 Cor 1:18-25 NKJV

14 Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen. 15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned (Mark 16:14-16 NKJV)

22 Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them. 23 And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”
(Luke 7:22-23 NKJV)

Jesus says it plainly here; blessed are those who hear this message being preached to them and are not offended because of Me. It is the power of the spoken Word that has the power to touch men’s hearts and change their lives! This is the real emphasis of John chapter 1 where Jesus is
Identified as the incarnate Word, Who “was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” (John 1:1-5 NKJV) The Word that spoke the world into existence and breathed life into Adam is the same Word that can breathe spiritual life into our sin hardened hearts and make us whole again.

6 Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter. 7 And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: “Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, 9 and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. (Acts 15:6-10 NKJV)

8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Rom 10:8-13 NKJV)

Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you — unless you believed in vain.

3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. 7 After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. 8 Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.

9 For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. 11 Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. (1 Cor 15:1-11 NKJV)

It is crystal clear; the Bible does not speak of nor even support a salvific possibility of God regenerating an individual outside of the work of the Word of God and its proclamation. It is the proclamation of the gospel that causes lost men to see their sin and their need of a Savior and to hear God’s promise to save those who believe. Calvinism errantly seeks to establish new birth as the sole result of God’s predestined will and subsequent effectual calling, which is not contingent at all upon the proclamation of the gospel because prior to that effectual calling, the gospel has no effect at all on the lost, unregenerate person.

Now this brings up another point. Monergism posits God and God alone in the salvific process. The Calvinist will contend that God and God alone regenerates the lost person and that person repents and is saved. Man plays no part in the process whatsoever. So when it comes to believing, it is God plus nothing (any response from the individual prior to regeneration) that brings about conversion. Why is it then that the Calvinist will argue that it is God plus man that is responsible to bring the message to the unregenerate man? Why would monergism not apply in the sharing of the gospel as it does in the receiving of the gospel? If God does not need man’s participation in receiving the gospel, why does He need man’s participation in the sharing of the gospel? The truth is, it is not necessary for that sharing has no effect unless and until God makes the unregenerate able to hear and understand and then gives him the ability to respond to that message.

Calvinism which posits salvation by regeneration or effectual calling simply is not supported by the Scriptures and needs to be once and for all put to rest.

Here is a question:

Is the gospel the power of God unto salvation to those who are not first regenerated?

Now Is The Accepted Time 2 Corinthians 6:2

“Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2
NKJV)

In chapter 5, Paul warns the Corinthian church that they must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ and “knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.” (VV 10-11 NKJV) Obviously the persuading that Paul is referring to is the proclamation of the gospel that has the power to save sinners. “14 For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. (VV 14-15 NKJV)

The mission of Paul’s life is to share this glorious gospel with everyone he can. “18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (VV 18-21 NKJV) Paul understood the power of the spoken Word. He understood the need to preach the gospel and for people to listen. He saw himself as an “ambassador for Christ” and he felt as if Christ Himself was pleading for the lost to come to Him through his preaching.

So Paul makes the following statement, “We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain. 2 For He says: ‘In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you.’ Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Cor 6:1-2 NKJV) The Gospel message requires two essential elements. It must be announced and it must be acknowledged. The gospel message must be heard and it must be heeded. Paul makes this abundantly clear. He says that he and those who preach the gospel with him are workers together with the Lord Jesus in the proclamation of the gospel and so he says that he pleads with those who hear to “not receive the grace of God in vain.” It is apparent that there were probably many who heard Paul preach and walked away not receiving the gift of God’s grace like the rich young ruler did Jesus. Paul goes on to say, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

There is only one way to read this appeal. God saves those who respond in repentance by faith to the message presented in the preaching or sharing of the gospel message. For the gospel is indeed “the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.” (Rom 1:16 NKJV) Ppaul had a burning desire to see people saved, Gentile and Jew alike. “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” (Rom 10:1-4 NKJV) The gospel of Jesus Christ is for “everyone who will believe.” “35Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst’… and everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:35-36, 40 NKJV) “Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; 39 and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.” (Acts 13:38-40 NKJV)

“Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. 4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith. 5 Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:1-5 NKJV)

Notice the conditional statement John leads off with in verse 9: “9 If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son. 10 He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son. 11 And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.” (1 John 5:9-13 NKJV)

The truth of the Scriptures is Jesus has come into this world to save sinners. God has chosen the foolishness of preaching to save those that are lost. How does the preaching of the gospel save sinners? Sinners are saved as they believe. (I Corinthians 1:21) This is why Paul said that Jesus had sent him to preach the gospel! (V17) Jesus said it all when He said, “14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:14-18
NKJV) This is what Paul believed; it is what Paul experienced in his own conversion and it this is the message that Paul believed anyone could hear and respond to and that is why his admonition was “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” Once a sinner is confronted with the gospel, it is his response that will determine his eternal destiny and today is all anyone is promised.

A Critical Look at Romans 8:29-30

Romans 8:29-30 is perhaps the most Calvinistic passage of Scripture in the Bible. Here the Apostle Paul makes the following declaration: “29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” (NKJV) The question of the hour is, what do these two verses mean? Is Paul speaking in salvific terms? Is he giving the world a glimpse into the mind of God as He reaches out to touch the hearts of sinners to make them part of His eternal family? The Calvinist says this is exactly what Paul is doing and this is exactly what these two verses are referring to.

In looking at the Greek,

“for those He knew beforehand, He indeed appointed beforehand (predestined) those to be fashioned in the image of His Son that He might be the first born among many brothers. Those He predestined He called by name, invited and those He called those He also justified and those He justified He also glorified.”

These verbs are all aorist active indicative tenses. They indicate that the action of the verb has already taken place with respect to the subject of the verb. Given the tense of the verb, it is clear at least grammatically speaking, this cannot refer to action that is yet to be taken. The Calvinist argument that glorification is so set in the mind of God that it is virtually already settled is not easily substantiated grammatically in this passage of Scripture. This will be highlighted in greater detail later. With this in mind, is there a contextual application that might better suit Paul’s statement?

Paul begins chapter 8 with these words, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. (Rom 8:1-2 NKJV) It is clear that Paul is speaking if not to Christians, about Christians. In verse 4 he settles that question when he wrote, “that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”(NKJV) He goes on to say “8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you.” (Rom 8:8-9 NKJV) “16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs — heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” (Rom 8:16-17 NKJV) Paul is establishing the foundation for their inclusion in the family of God.

Notice the phrase, “if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together.” This is an important phrase in the exegesis of this text. Paul has taken great lengths to identify the Roman Christians with the family of God; they are heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus. So, how are these Roman Christians to respond to the persecution they are facing? This present suffering will end in glorification. What about the tenses in this verse? If we “suffer” is a present active indicative which indicates that Paul is speaking of persecution they are currently experiencing and “that we may be glorified together” is aorist passive subjunctive; which carries with it an intended action that is yet to be completed. The subjunctive voice even with the aorist tense is an indication that there is no past time indicated by the aorist tense of the verb but anticipates some hypothetical event in the future. So Paul is indicating here that the present suffering the Roman Christians are going through will culminate in glory someday.

Paul says that the world itself is going through this futility and “the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” (Rom 8:21NKJV) Paul continues this concept as he argues the necessity of their present suffering: “23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. 24 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.” (Rom 8:23-25 NKJV) Notice Paul’s next statement, “we are not alone! We have the Holy Spirit helping us and praying on our behalf!” Notice Paul’s next statement: “27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” (Rom 8:27 NKJV)

Who would these Roman Christians think of when the apostle Paul spoke of “the saints?” It is at least fair to assume they might think of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They might think of David, Job, Isaiah, Jeremiah, all Old Testament saints that God had used to bring Jesus into the world. It is clear that Paul did not think of himself in this category and was not including himself in this company. Notice Paul’s next statement: “28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Rom 8:28-29 NKJV) “We know” is a very important statement here. How do these Roman Christians know that God works “all things out for good for those who love the Lord?” Because they had been taught the Old Testament and they knew that God had worked in the lives of those Old Testament saints and He had brought them through untold difficulties to glory!

29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. (Rom 8:29-30 NKJV) Notice the conjunction, “for”’; it ties what is about to be said with what has just been said. We know what God has done for the Old Testament saints, those that He “already knew, He predestined, (aorist indicative, completed action) to be conformed to the image or likeness of His Son. They died long before Jesus was even born but they are still a part of the promises of God! God planned from the beginning to bring their salvation to completion in Christ Jesus. Moreover, those He predestined (aorist indicative, completed action) He justified (aorist indicative, completed action) and those He justified He glorified (aorist indicative, completed action). If Paul had any intended notion that he was speaking to the Roman Christians he would have used the same tense he used previously in verse 16, that being the aorist passive subjective. He did not do so because he was speaking here of the Old Testament saints who had already died but God had provided hope for.

Paul continues, “31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31 NKJV) If God took care of the Old Testament saints, will He not do the same for us? Yes! “32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (Rom 8:21-36 NKJV) Paul is not at all speaking of predestination of individuals to conversion: he is speaking to these Roman Christians who are suffering immense persecution and encouraging them to “keep the faith” for the God who brought the Old Testament saints to glory is going to bring them to glory!

Paul concludes chapter 8 with this great charge, “37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:37-39 NKJV)

Paul simply wanted the newly born again Christians in Rome to know that they were covered by the blood that covered the saints of old and the same God that brought them out of the immense persecutions they endured would bring them out of those they were enduring.

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