Theology: The Holy Spirit – THE HOLY SPIRIT’S WORK IN REGENERATION

There is a science fiction series on the Public Broadcast System that runs for a long long time. It is the program about Dr. Who. The Dr. moves in and out of time and space in a telephone booth if I remember it correctly. He is always in a jam with someone, or some race that is out to get him. He does a lot of good along the way.

 

You might suggest, that kind of show would get boring. Well in a way it does, so every once in a while Dr. Who dies. This gives some excitement to the program. Although he dies, he has the ability to regenerate himself and he comes back the next program. He is a different actor with some differences centered around the good old Dr. Who that you know and love.

 

If you know of the Star Trek series you know that someone built a

Genesis machine that would take an old burned out planet and regenerate it into a thriving world that would be habitable by man.

 

Even in the lost world of entertainment there is a fascination with coming back to life, with making old things new, and in general playing God. The fallacy however in all of this is the fact that only God can really make old things new. Man just hasn’t realized this yet.

 

This thought of regeneration is somewhat foreign to the regeneration that we want to talk about today, yet may indicate that the lost world wants to play god.

 

INTRODUCTION TO REGENERATION

 

One of my friends that received his Masters Degree from the Denver Conservative Baptist Seminary mentioned that one of his questions on his oral examination before the faculty was this. “What is your ordo salutis?” He asked me what mine was. I plead ignorance. He said, “So did I.” Might I ask you what your “ordo salutis” is? It is the order of salvation.

 

There is faith and there is regeneration. Which came first? Some suggest that to have faith you must be regenerated. They hold that the lost man is so depraved that he cannot possibly have faith. He must be pulled out of that position by regeneration before he can know what faith is. Some suggest that if you are regenerated then you don’t need faith. In other words, regeneration is the complete work and faith is too late. The work of salvation is done. The Bible would refute this, in that it states that salvation is by faith.

 

This is a basic Calvinist Question. The Calvinist would see regeneration as that which gives the person enough “umph” to accept the Gospel.

 

The answer to all this is somewhere in the fact that all of it takes place instantaneously. Most I think would feel that faith comes before the regeneration takes place. If you don’t agree then try a research paper on it. By the way I have just read recently that to steal from one person is called plagiarism, but to steal from many is called research.

 

Calvin believed that repentance and regeneration were one in the same. “In one word I apprehend repentance to be regeneration, the end of which is the restoration of the divine image within us;” (Buswell, James Oliver; “A Systematic Theology Of The Christian Religion”; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1962, vol.II, p 171) I would probably take exception to the idea that repentance and regereration are one.

 

Augustine felt that you could have regeneration without election, but that you could not have election without regeneration. He felt that some were regenerated by the waters of baptism, but these perished later. These would be the non-elect. (Buswell, Vol. II, p 172)

 

Dr. Bob Jones Sr. stated once in a booklet, “The Holy Spirit”, “The Holy spirit is a diagnostician. He feels the sinner’s pulse, looks at the sinner’s tongue, takes the sinner’s blood pressure, listens to the sinner’s heartbeat, and says to the sinner, ‘You are a poor lost sinner.’ The Holy spirit, after doing this, recommends a physician; and the only physician He ever recommends to a sinner is the Lord Jesus Christ, Who died on a cross for lost men of all generations.” (p 4-5)

 

I don’t mean to detract from the eloquence of Dr. Jones, but I’m not sure that there is that much need of examination to determine if a person is a sinner, or if you can look at the physical evidence and determine spiritual condition or not, but the Great Physician is certainly the only one that can cure our ills. Regeneration is one in a process of remedies that we must go through in salvation. This gets us on the road to a very quick recovery.

 

The Holy Spirit is the instrument by which man can be regenerated. Dr. Jones goes on to say, “…the Holy Spirit becomes a trained nurse and applies the regenerating grace to the sinner’s heart and makes him whole.” (Jones, Dr. Bob Sr.; “THE HOLY SPIRIT”; p 5)

 

The term used in the Scriptures is, “palingenesia” — Strong’s number 3824. This word appears only twice in the New Testament. Matthew 19:28. This verse seems to be related to the redoing of things in the future and not the spiritual rebirth that Paul speaks of in Titus. Titus 3:5, “Not 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 Spirit,”

 

The term is a combination of “palin” meaning “again” and “genesis” meaning “birth.” Palin is a term that is used many times in the New Testament. It is always translated, “again.” It simply means, “again birth,” or born again.

 

Richard DeHann mentions of the term, “‘Regeneration’ may therefore be defined as ‘the act of God the Spirit by which He instantaneously implants spiritual life in the one who receives Christ.’“ (DeHann; “The Holy Spirit In Your Life”; pp 2-3, used by permission of Radio Bible Class, Grand Rapids, Michigan.)

 

Is regeneration an implantation of a new something as DeHann mentions? I suspect he is aiming at an implantation of a new nature, however the term itself, “birth again” has no hint of an implantation. It in very clear, terms is a new birth. I suspect that the thought of implantation comes from the belief system that states that we have an old nature and a new nature, coexisting within.

 

I think that I disagree with the thought of something being implanted within the lost person to make him a believer. Christ stated “…Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3) Born is “gennao” (Strong’s 1080) also translated begat, conceived, should be born, brought forth, etc. The term has to do with birth. The bringing forth of something. “again” (Strong’s 509) is “anothen” which is translated, top, from the very first, again, from above, and from the beginning. “Take It From The Top” to put it lightly. Born from above might well be a good translation. Indeed, the interlinear lists it that way. This does not allow for an implantation idea.

 

DeHann goes on to say that the new birth is defined in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (DeHann; “The Holy Spirit In Your Life,” Used by permission of Radio Bible Class, Grand Rapids, Michigan.)Again, this seems to be, not an implantation as DeHann suggests, or a restoration as Calvin suggests, but a change — a new birth as the terminology suggests and demands.

 

I believe that DeHann shoots himself in the foot. He also suggests that it is a spiritual resurrection. A spiritual resurrection does not sound like an implantation to me. There is a picture of spiritual resurrection in the Scripture however. (Ephesians 2:1, “And you hath he made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins;”; Romans 6:13.)

 

Pardington quotes Dr. A.J. Gordon and states it is the best available definition. “Regeneration is the communication of the divine nature to man by the operation of the Holy Spirit through the Word.” (Pardington, Revelation George P. Ph.D.; “Outline Studies In Christian Doctrine”; Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, 1926, p 319) Again we see the idea that something passes from God to man in the idea of communication, which is not acceptable.

 

Pache summarizes, “From the spiritual point of view the soul of sinful

man is dead and estranged from God, for the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). By the miracle of regeneration the soul is revived, newly begotten and granted eternal life. Jesus described this experience as being born anew (John 3:3,7). It goes without saying that without this it is impossible for any man to be saved.” (Taken from: “The Person And Work Of The Holy Spirit”; Pache, Rene; Copyright 1954, Moody Bible Institute of Chicago; Moody Press. Used by permission. pp 68-69)

 

I think that Pache has covered the topic well in his statement. DeHann continues:

 

 

The Necessity Of Regeneration” “Sin has left the old man, so vile, so corrupt, so evil so devoid of all good, that it could never be redeemed. The old nature is so depraved that God himself has given up all hope of ever improving it, patching it up, or making it good. Now, if these statements seem somewhat extreme, listen to these words in Psalm 14. ‘The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no not one’ (Psalm 14:2,3).” (DeHann; “THE HOLY SPIRIT IN YOUR LIFE,” used by

permission of Radio Bible Class, Grand Rapids, Michigan.)

 

He goes on to say, “Man by nature is dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1); blind and deceived (1 Corinthians 2:14); an alien from God and His enemy (Colossians 1:21); and absolutely unclean (Isaiah 64:6). Even God doesn’t try to change the old human nature. Rather, the Spirit enables the sinner to believe on Christ. He then creates within him a brand-new nature, and imparts to him spiritual and everlasting life.” (DeHann, pp 5-6, used by permission of Radio Bible Class, Grand Rapids, Michigan.) I’m not sure implant is the word he should have used in the first quote though he seems to suggest that regeneration is the addition in some manner of a new item of business.

 

A rebirth is what the Bible says, thus we need to understand regeneration as the rebirth of something, rather than the addition of something. This relates to the one nature/two nature question. If a believer has two natures (the old and the new) resident, then DeHann’s approach might fit. If, on the other hand we have one nature — the one that was reborn — then addition or implantation seems foreign to the thought.

 

Personally, I feel that the terminology of regeneration — rebirth — etc. require that our nature is regenerated and that all we have as a believer is one nature that is responsive to God. We will deal with this in more detail in later sections.

 

Indeed, if the old nature was as dead as the Calvinist believes, how can it possibly be struggling with the new nature in the life of the believer? Consider it as you spend time in coming weeks reading through the New Testament and see if the one — new — nature doesn’t fit well with the Word.

 

THE MEANS OF REGENERATION

 

Ryrie calls it, “…God’s act of begetting eternal life in the one who believes in Christ.” (Taken from: “A Survey Of Bible Doctrine”; Ryrie, Charles C.; Copyright 1972, Moody Bible Institute of Chicago; Moody Press. Used by permission. p 76)

 

He goes on to say that faith is man’s part and that regeneration is “God’s supernatural act of imparting eternal life.”

 

Regeneration brings a new nature to the person’s makeup according to Ryrie. The old is not eradicated according to Ryrie. “Regeneration does not make a man perfect, but it places him in the family of God and gives him the new ability to please his Father by growing into the image of Christ.” (Taken from: “A Survey Of Bible Doctrine”; Ryrie, Charles C.; Copyright 1972, Moody Bible Institute of Chicago; Moody Press. Used by permission. p 77)

 

Might I suggest 2 Corinthians 5:17? “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” How can you interpret that to mean that the old nature is

still here and active? Indeed, as I have suggested, how can something that is dead be active?

 

How does “again born” relate to being given a new nature or new ability? It seems most consistent to see the old nature being replaced by the new nature, or being “reborn” — becoming a new nature. The thought of an old nature and new nature coexisting in one person is not consistent with what the Scriptures show.

 

We need to move on to the thought of the Holy Spirit’s part in the process. All three members of the Trinity are involved in regeneration, in that they are all together in the bringing about of salvation. (John 1:12,13) Yet, the Holy Spirit seems to be the instrument of regeneration. In John 3:3-7, the account of Nicodemus, it mentions being born of the Spirit.

Titus is also clear on this point. Titus 3:5, “Not 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 Spirit,” (The following show the salvation of man is in part due to the work of the Father and the Son. James 1:17,18; 2 Corinthians 5:17)

 

The Word also is involved in the regeneration process, however the Spirit is the actual instrument. Two texts mention that the Word is definitely a part of it. James 1:18,

 

“Of his own will begot he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.” (see also 1 Peter 1:23)

 

Woodbridge in his “Handbook Of Christian Truth” mentions, “The impartation of life takes place thus: The Holy Spirit of God, utilizing the Holy Word of God, exalts the Holy Son of God as Saviour. Then the Spirit woos, convicts and converts the sinner, regenerating him and causing him, through saving faith in Christ, to enter the family of God.”

 

In short God the Father is the author, Christ is the medium, the Holy spirit is the agent, and the word is the method.

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF PROPER UNDERSTANDING OF THE DOCTRINE

 

The main reason you need to be straight on this doctrine is that you will, in your ministries, run into people from the Church of Christ, the Christian Church (Campbellites) and the Disciples of Christ. Many of these people believe in many of the things that we hold to, but they add Baptism as a means of attaining regeneration, to their belief system.

 

The Roman Catholic and some Lutherans will hold to the same doctrine. They will see this regeneration as taking place when an infant is baptized while the others listed usually reject infant baptism, but see regeneration as the result of water baptism. When I was interim pastor in a small town,

one of the church members had told me of a couple that had called and wanted to be baptized “right away.” I called the couple knowing that they probably believed that they had to be baptized to be saved. They were ultimately baptized, but they knew that it was only an outward proclamation of what had been done within.

 

 

Tertullian was the first of the church fathers to hold to this doctrine. (Prayer and Baptism; translated by Alex. Souter; New York; Macmillan; 1919; pp 46-54)

 

The doctrine of Baptismal regeneration is the idea that to be saved you must believe AND be baptized before you can be saved. The doctrine is built upon the book of Acts where acceptance and baptism are so closely related in several places.

 

Some references that will be problematic to the people holding to baptismal regeneration are:

 

Mark 16:16 This text mentions, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” The damnation is linked quite plainly only to the belief.

 

1 Corinthians 1:14-17 mentions that Paul had baptized few of them yet he had begotten the Corinthians with the Gospel. If baptism were part of regeneration, then Paul would have been involved in Baptizing all that He led to Christ.

 

Luke 19:9 mentions Zacchaeus was saved before he was baptized.

 

Luke 23:42,43 mentions the thief would see the Lord in the kingdom that day — without baptism.

 

Acts 10:47 tells that Cornelius was saved before being baptized. “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, who have received the Holy Spirit as well as we?”

 

When in a class on Contemporary Theology in Salem, OR we had a Christian church pastor (NON-INSTRUMENTAL) that come to class to present the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. In his opening prayer he prayed for our salvation. He was totally committed to our lostness. He was there to explain to us lost Baptists that we needed to be properly baptized so that we could enter the kingdom. I’m not sure how he planned on saving us, because he did not bring a baptistry with him.

 

We sent him a series of questions so that he could return and answer them. One of the questions was concerning Acts 10:47. That was one of the questions that he did not attempt to answer. We also asked him about the Luke 23 text with the thief on the cross. His simple statement was that this was just a special case.

 

The important thing to us in fundamental circles is that we do not practice the doctrine nor hold to it.

 

Dr. Bryce Augsburger, President of Denver Baptist Bible College and Seminary, mentioned in a chapel message that independent Baptists do not believe in Baptismal regeneration, but many of them are near to practicing it. We save em and run em through the tank. He questioned if the people really understood the rite of baptism.

 

The opposite of this is true in fundamental Bible churches at times. We do not stress Baptism and as a result we have many people that put baptism off for many years. We need to strike a balance between the two extremes. I was teaching through this section in college once and after the class one of the students came to me asked if she could talk to me. She had been raised in a church which had no baptistry and so she had never been baptized.

She felt that it was important, so was baptized soon after.

 

When we have a new believer on our hands, we should begin teaching them some of the basics. One of those basics is baptism. Another is the local church. If you go into the book of Acts they are going to be confronted with baptism very quickly.

 

We need to be sure that we take time with new converts to show them what baptism is and assure them that a service will be planned when they are ready to other believers in this public statement of their faith.

 

Find a balance.

 

Regeneration is the specific work of the Holy Spirit, though the Father, The Son, and the Word are also involved. The regeneration is that act by which the Holy Spirit transforms, through birthing again, the old nature.

 

This transformation is complete in an instant and is not reversible. It is that action which prepares us for entrance into the family of God. Without this transformation nothing else can proceed in the process of salvation.

 

We might mention at this point that there is a process involved in salvation. It is realized that the salvation process occurs in an instant, yet there are things which must precede others. For example, without faith, God cannot transform. Without transformation, there can be no entrance into the family of God. We will see this process in detail in the Salvation section.[1]

 


[1] Stanley L. Derickson Ph.D. B.A. (n.d.). DERICKSON’S NOTES ON THEOLOGY: A STUDY BOOK IN THEOLOGY.

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