The Doctrine of Salvation
by Pastor Tim Binion
Introduction: The Doctrine of salvation is central to the massage of Scripture. From Genesis 3 through Revelation 22 we witness the unfolding drama of redemption. No sooner had man fallen than God is seen promising deliverance (Gen. 3:15). In event, word, and type the entire Old Testament is anticipatory of the coming of Jesus Christ; and the New Testament is both a record of that event and an authoritative reflection on its meaning. Man’s problem, from his fall in Adam down through the ages, has been both a lack of knowledge of God and sense of guilt before Him. The answer to this twofold difficulty is found only in the redemptive revelation of God’s love in Christ, witnessed to in the Bible.
The Salvation planned, executed and applied by the triune God is manifold in nature. It is comprehended in a series of Biblical concepts: reconciliation, regeneration, conversion, justification, adoption, sanctification and glorification. No one of these scriptural terms is fully adequate to explain the meaning of salvation. In the ultimate and fullest sense no man is saved until he has been glorified (1 Cor. 5:5).
It is the purpose of this study to provide some guidance in a systematic way intended primarily to provide a basis for the reader’s own constructive interaction while remaining exegetically responsible and existentially relevant. C. S. Lewis well states, “The glory of God, and, as our only means of glorifying Him, the salvation of human souls, is the real business of life.”
Salvation From What and Why?
His church has consistently proclaimed and held to a doctrine of salvation (soteriology). Through out history whenever the church proclaims the good news of salvation, modern man asks, Salvation from what, and why? If these questions are answered in biblical terms the reply is, from sin so that we may live in fellowship with God both here and in the hereafter. So we must ask, what is sin? One of the best direct responses to this question comes from the Westminster Catechism, “sin is any want of conformity to the law of God or transgression of it” (1 John 3:4). This definition is consistently biblical as far as it goes but it stops short at a crucial point. Sin, is not only a failure to obey the law of God and/or a violation of it; it is also - and perhaps even more significantly – a deification of self and a dethronement of God. It is the disruption of the creature’s personal relationship with his Creator.
Sins Origin: In the garden of Eden we find origin of our depravity. Adam’s sin has been imputed to all by virtue of the fact of the solidarity of the race and the principle of representation (Rom. 5:12). This principle in most theological circles is often referred to as “federal headship”. All sinned representatively in the one and therefore all inherit a sinful nature from which flows every sinful act. The root of man’s perversity is the sinful nature inherited because of his fall in Adam. Man’s predicament is the result of his wickedness – inherited and actual. On this principle the Apostle Paul built one of the most powerful arguments for the one (Christ Jesus) standing as a savior for all in the book of Romans. Observe the contrast or better yet the similarities between the Adams sin and Christ’s redemption. Rom 5:12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:. . . . Rom 5:15 But not as the offence, so also [is] the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, [which is] by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. Rom 5:16 And not as [it was] by one that sinned, [so is] the gift: for the judgment [was] by one to condemnation, but the free gift [is] of many offences unto justification. Rom 5:17 For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) Rom 5:18 Therefore as by the offence of one [judgment came] upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one [the free gift came] upon all men unto justification of life. Rom 5:19 For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. Rom 5:20 Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: Rom 5:21 That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.
Secondly, the result of sin is estrangement from God, one’s fellowman, and even from oneself. Man is by nature totally depraved. This does not mean that every man is as bad as he can possibly be. It means that sin has pervaded every aspect of his nature and he is totally incapable of achieving his own salvation. Even the function of his intellect has become darkened by sin so that he cannot understand the things of the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 2:14). So, salvation is not a theory or speculation about God and it is more then deductions from objective facts concerning His nature and attributes. True religion is man’s relations to the divine Being. It involves fellowship and obedience on mans part and self revelation of God’s part by the removal of sin. None of which can be possible apart from the Christian experience.
The Salvation Experience: By Christian experience we mean the totality of the experience which becomes ours through our fellowship with God in Christ not just its beginning but includes all that follows. Regeneration and its results are all included. In religion it is our personal interest and our personal relation to God which give vitality and power that goes way beyond the speculation or theory about God. It is the experience of God. In other words it’s God known to us through communion and fellowship that overrides our depravity inherited and propensity to sin.
The Scriptures teach a self revelation of God in the domain of human history. Along with this the revelation is made real and vital for men in the realm of personal experience.
The Scope Of Salvation: Salvation deals with the provision of salvation through Christ and the application of it through the Holy Spirit. The provision of salvation covers such topics as the plan of God and the person and work of Jesus Christ. The application of salvation previews the work of the Holy Spirit in conversion, justification, regeneration, adoption and other doctrines which relate to the Christian walk, such as sanctification, preservation and the means of grace.
Scripture shows us that He has a definite plan of salvation. This plan includes the means by which salvation is to be provided, the objectives that are to be realized, the persons that are to benefit by it, the conditions on which it is to be available and the agents and means by which it is to be applied. God has always had but one plan of salvation and all must be saved in the same way, whether they are moral or immoral, trained or untrained, Jew or Gentile, whether living in the Old Testament period or in the present age.
The Scriptures teach
that God has provided salvation in the person and work of His Son. This Son was
made to assume our flesh, die in our place, rise again from the dead, ascend to
the Father, receive the place of power at God’s right hand and appear before
God in the believer’s behalf. He is to come again to consummate redemption. This
work of God’s Son was for the purpose of saving us from the guilt, the penalty,
the power, and ultimately the presence of sin. Repentance is necessary for
salvation, but merely as a preparation of the heart and not as a price paid for
the gift of life. Faith is the only condition to salvation, and it is the gift
of God. The Holy Spirit is the agent in the application of salvation to the
individual soul. He uses the Word of God to bring about conviction, to point the
way to Christ and to regenerate the soul. He continues the work of
sanctification in the believer’s life. Salvation is not complete until the
believer is resurrected and presented holy and blameless to Christ by the Holy
Although God has but one plan of salvation, he chose various ways of dealing with man over a long period of time to set a proper theological stage for our benefit. The Scriptures reveal that this long time of preparation was needful. It states But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law (Gal. 4:4). The object of this time of preparation was threefold: to disclose to man the true nature of sin and the depth of depravity to which he had fallen, to reveal to him his powerlessness to preserve or regain an adequate knowledge of God, or to deliver himself from sin by philosophy and are and to teach him that forgiveness and restoration are possible only on the grounds of a substitutionary sacrifice. History shows how imperfectly the world learned these lessons; yet a partial learning of them was necessary before God could introduce the Savior in person.
God’s method of redemption was through the seed of the woman (Gen.3:15). The redeemer was to be born of a woman, born under the law (Gal.4:4). He needed to be both human and divine so that he might be the mediator between man and God and reconcile man to God. Reconciliation could only be accomplished through the incarnation, God being made flesh. In the eternal past, Christ “was with God,” indeed he “was God” (John 1:1). This was “before the world was” (John 17:5). He is called “the Word” (John 1:1, 14; Rev. 19:13). A word is a medium of manifestation, a means of communication and a method of revelation. In harmony with this interpretation, we read in Hebrews 1:2 In these last day has spoken to us by His Son. God became a man in order to confirm the promises made to the fathers and to show mercy to the Gentiles (Rom. 15:8-12). Many of these promises reveals new dimensions of the person and provision of salvation. Beginning with the promise in Gen. 3:15 and continuing through the Old Testament, God at various times promised to send his Son into the world and the way of salvation (Isa. 7:14; 9:6; Micah 5:2 etc. . .). In the Old Testament God is revealed as creator and governor. The Old Testament reveals the unity, holiness, might and beneficence of God. Christ completed the revelation by adding the idea of God as Father (Matt. 6:9). John wrote, No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him (John 1:18). The relationship of the child of God to his heavenly Father is a precious New Testament concept. With a much greater revelation came a new dispensation under a new covenant relationship. Jesus came to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself (Heb. 9:26). Jesus said, For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). It is clearly indicated that he needed to become a man in order to die for the sins of mankind. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became him, for whom [are] all things, and by whom [are] all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings (Heb 2:9-10). 1John 3:5 And ye know that he was manifested (appeared in order) to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. Shortly after John stated that Christ appeared to take away sin he wrote that Christ also appeared to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8). The Bible says in Hebrews 2:14 & 15 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
Christ’s coming, particularly his work on the cross, brought defeat to Satan (John 12:32; 14:30). He is a vanquished foe. He has lost his hold on his subjects; someday he will be cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10).
Other religions base their clam to recognition on the teaching of their founders; Christianity is distinguished from all of them by the importance it assigns to the death of its founder. Take away the death of Christ as interpreted by the Scriptures, and you reduce Christianity to the level of the ethnic religions. Though we would still have a higher system of ethics, were we to take away the cross of Christ, we would have no more salvation then these other religions. Take away the cross, and the heart of Christianity is gone. Unlike the messages bellowed from pulpits across our country today, the subject of the apostolic preaching was Christ and him crucified (1 Cor. 1:18; 23; 2:2; Gal. 6:14). Rather then five points of prosperity the New Testament Church preached the gospel. The term “gospel” means “good news” is used in various ways. The four accounts of the earthly life of Jesus are called Gospels but more narrowly it is used of the “good news” of salvation. Paul says that the gospel consists of the death of Christ for our sins, his burial and resurrection (1 Cor. 15:1-5). The death of Christ for man’s sin is good news; it implies that man does not need to die in his sin. The Mosaic law, the Sermon on the Mount, the teaching and example of Christ, all show to us our sin and reveal to us the need of a Savior, but they do not provide the remedy for sin. This remedy is found only in the death of Christ.
The sufferings of Christ were not just the sympathetic sufferings of a friend, but the substitutionary sufferings of the Lamb of God for the sin of the world. Isaiah writes, (Isaiah 53:4) Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. (V. 5) But he [was] wounded for our transgressions, [he was] bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace [was] upon him; and with his stripes we are healed (Note some other scripture: Rom. 5:8; 1 Cor. 15:3; Cor. 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18; John 10:11).
Since holiness is God’s fundamental attribute it is only reasonable that he should be given some satisfaction to remove the outrage of sin. The death of Christ supplies this satisfaction. Man has sinned against God and has incurred his displeasure and condemnation. God rightly exacts the penalty of a broken law. He cannot free the sinner until the demands of justice are satisfied. God must visit sin with punishment. God will not, apart from substitution, clear the guilty. Only through Christ’s death could God be just while justifying the sinner (Rom. 3:25).
The Fundamentals Of Salvation: The great work of redemption and the extraordinary plan to provide recovery from the fall, show case two aspects of a God of personality. The first, who Jesus is and what he is to us. The second, our experience of God’s redeeming power in the soul. The fundamentals of salvation include a self-revelation of God in the domain of human history. Along with this the revelation is made real and vital for men in the realm of personal experience. Our own experience of the redeeming grace of God in Christ is necessary to fully understand Christian religion. Experiences would go off course without the ever-present corrective influence of the Scriptures. Apart form the working of God’s redeeming grace in us, the Scriptures would never become a vital and transforming reality.
What is the logical order in the experience of salvation? There is, of course, no chronological sequence; conversion, justification, regeneration union with Christ and adoption all take place at the same instant. Sanctification alone is both an act and a process. But there is a logical sequence, the Scriptures invite man to turn to God (Prov. 1:23; Isa. 31:6; 59:20; Ezek 14:6; 18:32; 33:9-11; Matt. 18:3; Acts 3:19; Heb. 6:11). Conversion is that turning to God, and it represents the human response to the provision of God. It consists of two elements: repentance and faith. The Scriptures never ask man to justify himself, to regenerate himself or to adopt himself. God alone can do these things, but man by God’s enablement can turn to God. It seems clear that repentance and faith lead to justification and justification leads to life, and not the reverse (Rom. 5:17).
Repentance: The importance of repentance is not recognized as it should be. Some call upon the unsaved to accept Christ and to believe without ever showing the sinner that he is lost and needs a Savior. The Scriptures lay much stress on the preaching of repentance. Repentance was the message of the Old Testament prophets (Deut. 30:10; 2 Kings 17:13; Jer. 8:6; Ezek. 14:6; 18:30). It was the keynote of the preaching of John the Baptist (Matt. 3:2; Mark 1:15), of Christ (Mat. 4:17; Luke 13:3-5), of the twelve (Mark 6:12), and in particular of Peter on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38; 3:19), It was also fundamental to the preaching of Paul (Acts 20:21; 26:20). It is commanded of all men in (Acts 17:30). Repentance is something in which all heaven is supremely interested (Luke 15:7, 10). It is the fundamental of the fundamentals (Matt. 21:32; Heb. 6:1), because it is an absolute condition of salvation (Luke 13:2-5).
Repentance is essentially a change of mind if you take the word in the broadest sense. However, in coming to God it deals with the change in the deepest part of your being. Three main areas are primarily involved, your intellect, your emotion, and your will. Intellectually your views of sin, God and self must change. Sin comes to be recognized as personal guilt, God as the one who justly demands righteousness, and self as defiled and helpless. The scriptures often speak of this aspect of repentance as the knowledge of sin (Rom. 3:20; Job 42:4; Ps. 51:3; Luke 15:17; Rom. 1:32). Other areas of thinking may also need to change. A proper view of Christ must also be achieved. Repentance also involves a change of mind concerning Christ. Peter’s preaching of Christ as the promised Messiah and savior in Acts 2:14-40 to the Jews who saw Christ as a mere man. The emotional element implies a change of feeling. Sorrow for sin and a desire for pardon are important aspects of repentance. Weeping, morning, sackcloth, ashes etc. . . are often attached to one involved in true repentance. Mat 11:21 Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. Isa 22:12 And in that day did the Lord GOD of hosts call to weeping, and to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth: Jas 4:9 Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and [your] joy to heaviness. Jas 4:10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. Mat 12:41 The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas [is] here. Jesus pointed at the city of Nineveh and saith that’s what repentance looks like. Read Jonah chapter 3. The apostle Paul wrote in 2Co 7:10 For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of. The volitional element implies a change of will, disposition and purpose. Mar 8:34 And when he had called the people [unto him] with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me (Mat.10:39, Mat. 16:25; Luk. 9:24, Luk. 17:33; Joh. 12:25). The words of Jesus in these verses strike a death blow to the cheap, easy, feel good religion that is being passed off as Christianity in these days. True salvation is about a radical commitment to leave the old life behind to follow Jesus into a new and very different life. True salvation, however is not some form of “easy believing” that leaves you unchanged. True salvation, when it happens in your life, will make such a radical change in your life that you will begin to act like a different person. Your desires and habits will change. Your interests and commitments will change. “DENY HIMSELF” – This phrase literally means, “to completely disown, to utterly separate oneself from someone.” Denying self is not the same thing as self-denial. Some people will practice self-denial by withholding certain things from themselves. That is not what Jesus is talking about.
Denying self is far more intense than that the Greek word aparneomai means a total disconnection with one’s own interests. Denying self implies that I stop listening to my own voice. I stop leaning on my own power. I stop trying to fulfill my own will and wishes. It is a no will but His will kind of attitude. I have no plans but His plans. I have no wants but what He wants for me. When I deny myself, I give up all my rights and I relinquish all control of my life to the Lord Jesus Christ. This part of repentance the change in volition is a crucial part of the new birth. Most religions and most popular ministries are focused on catering to self. They want people to feel good about themselves. They want to build up people’s self-esteem. They want mankind to rejoice in his achievements and in his abilities. An intellectual or emotional change that fails to crush our will and give Christ absolute control in every area of our lives falls short of Biblical repentance. He calls on us to disown ourselves and give Him the reigns of our lives.
Faith: As in the case of repentance, so in the case of faith, the doctrine does not receive the attention that it deserves. As man’s life is governed by what he believes and in what he has faith, and his religion by the person in whom he believes. The Scriptures declare that we are saved by faith (Acts 16:31; Rom. 5:1; 9:30-32; Eph. 2:8), enriched with the Spirit by faith (Gal. 3:5; 14), sanctified by faith (Acts 15:9; 26:18), kept by faith (Rom 11:20; 2 Cor. 1:24; 1 Pet. 1:5; 1 John 5:4), established by faith (Isa. 7:9), and healed by faith (Acts 14:9; James 5:15). We walk by faith (2Cor. 5:7) and surmount difficulties by faith (Mark 9:23; Rom. 4:18-21; Heb. 11:32-40).
Let us first distinguish between some terms that are sometimes confounded. Such are the terms “belief,” “hope,” “the faith,” and “faith.” The word “belief” is often used in the same sense as the word “faith”; but many times it serves to denote only one element of faith, namely the intellectual. We must guard against a souse use of the term. Hope has to do exclusively with the future, while faith has to do with the past, the present, and the future. Hope has been defined as desire plus expectation but scriptural hope has in it also the element of knowledge and assurance. It rests upon the truth revealed in the scriptures. By “the faith” we mean the sum total of Christian doctrine as contained in the scriptures (Luke 18:8; Acts 6:7; 1 Tim. 4:1; 6:10; Jude 3). Trust is a characteristic Old Testament word for the New Testament “believe” or “faith.”
What then is faith? It is not easy to formulate a simple and adequate definition. In conversion, faith is the turning of the soul to God, as repentance is the turning of the soul from sin. But we need to make a closer study of this turning to God. We may say that the Scriptures represent faith as an act of the heart. It therefore involves an intellectual, an emotional and a volitional change. Men believe with the heart to be saved (Rom 10:9). The Scriptures emphasize the intellectual aspect of faith in such references as (Ps. 9:10; John 2:23; and Rom. 10:14). Nicodemus had faith in this sense of the term when he came to Jesus (John 3:2), and the demons, we are told, believe, for they know the facts concerning God (James 2:19). It is, no doubt, in this sense also that Simon Magus believed (Acts 8:13), for there are no indications that he repented and appropriated Christ. We conclude, therefore, that faith must be more then intellectual assent. Like repentance there are three main aspects necessary in saving faith.
It begins with intellectual belief in the revelation of God in nature, in the historical facts of Scripture, and in the doctrines taught therein as to man’s sinfulness, the redemption provided in Christ, the conditions to salvation and to all the blessings promised to God’s children. Paul says in Romans 10:17 So then faith [cometh] by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. In this chapter we learn that we need to know the gospel in order to believe in Christ. The Psalmist wrote, “And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, LORD, hast not forsaken them that seek Thee” (Psalms 9:10).
The Bible clearly identifies an emotional element to faith. Psa 106:12 Then believed they his words; they sang his praise. They soon forgot his works; they waited not for his counsel: Mat 13:20 But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Mat 13:21 Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. Joh 5:35 He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light. All of these references intimate a partial and emotional acceptance of the truth of God. The emotional element of faith results from our personal need and personal application of the redemption provided in Christ. But it must not stop here, for while the emotional element is certainly to be recognized as a component of faith, it must not be treated as if it were the sole characteristic of faith. Surrender is the logical outgrowth of the intellectual and the emotional aspects of faith. Each preceding term logically leads to the succeeding; a mans is not saved unless his faith has all three of these elements in it. The voluntary surrender is so comprehensive that it presupposes the other two. No one can be saved who does not surrender and wholeheartedly embrace Christ. This surrendering appropriation of the redemption of Christ is brought out in such Scriptures as “My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways” (Pro 23:26). Come unto me, all [ye] that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke [is] easy, and my burden is light (Mat 11:28-30). If any [man] come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple (Luk 14:26-27). That Greek term pisteuo (to believe or trust) is used in the sense of surrender and commitment. To the extent Scriptures frequently emphasize that man should count the cost before committing ones self to the Lord (Matt. 8:19-22; Luke 14:26-33). It includes committing to Him as Lord of your life “Believe in the Lord Jesus” (Acts 16:31) and confess “Jesus as Lord” (Rom. 10:9) to be saved.
Conversion: These elements of salvation constitute a conversion. 1st there must be in all a penitent confession of sin, 2nd must be a looking to Jesus for the forgiveness, and 3ed there must also be a real change of heart . Without these essential points one does not have a Biblical conversion. Mat 18:3 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Act 3:19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;
Psa 51:13 [Then] will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee. Mat 13:15 For this people's heart is waxed gross, and [their] ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with [their] eyes, and hear with [their] ears, and should understand with [their] heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. 2Co 5:17 Therefore if any man [be] in Christ, [he is] a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
Though out the Bible the converted (those with a radical change) and the unconverted are clearly contrasted. The Bible identifies sheep lost and sheep found, guests refusing the invitation and guests feasting at the table, the wise virgins and the foolish, the herd of sheep and a herd of goats. In the epistles we read of those who are “dead in trespasses and sin,” and of others to whom it is said, “And you hath he quickened”; some are alive to God, and others are in their natural state of spiritual death. People are either in darkness or in light, and the phrase is used to mark this change is the “being brought out of darkness into marvelous light.” Some are spoken of as having been formerly aliens and strangers, and slaves been made fellow-citizens and brethren. We read of “children of God,” in opposition to “children of wrath.” We read of believers who are not condemned, and of those who are condemned already because they have not believed. We read of those who have “gone astray,” and of those who have “returned to the shepherd and bishop of their souls.” We read of those who are “in the flesh and cannot please God,” and of those who are chosen and called and justified, acceptable in the beloved. The word “Enemies” are continually placed in contrast with those who are “reconciled to God by the death of his Son.” There are those that are “far off from God by wicked works,” and those who are “made nigh by the blood of Christ.” I could go on and on. The distinction between the two classes runs through all of the Scriptures. This change is often described as a birth. See the third chapter of the gospel of John, which is wonderfully clear and to the point states “Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” . . Turn to John 1:12, 13, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believed on his name: which were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” In the third of John our Lord associates faith and regeneration inseparable, declaring not only that we must be born again, but also that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life John tells us, in his first epistle, 5:4, that “Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world,” and he adds, to show that the new birth and faith go together, “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” To the same effect is 1 John 5:1, “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” Where ever you find true faith, you always find the new birth, and the language always implies a change beyond the norm, and radical.
In other places this change is described as a quickening. “And you hath he quickened who were dead intrespasses and sins.” (Ephesians 2:1.) We are said to be raised from the dead together with Christ, and this is spoken of as being a very wonderful display of omnipotence. We read (Ephesians 1:19) of “the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places.” Regeneration is a very prodigy of divine strength, We find this change frequently described as a creation, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature;” not by formality, or rite or work for the flesh, for we read in Galatians 6:15, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.” we must be “created in Christ Jesus unto good works” (Ephesians 2:10), and we must have in us “the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:24). What a wonderful change that must be which is first described as a birth, then as a resurrection from the dead, and then as an absolute creation. Paul, in Colossians 1:13, further speaks of God the Father, and says, “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.” John calls it a “passing from death unto life” (1 John 3:14), no doubt having in his mind that glorious declaration of his Lord and Master: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word,and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” (John 5:24.) Peter speaks of our conversion and regeneration as our being “begotten again.” Hear the passage (1 Peter 1:3), “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” To the same purpose speaks the apostle James in his first chapter, at the eighteenth verse: “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” The conversion is more than a change in character, there is a change in feeling. The man had been an enemy to God before, but when this change takes place he begins to love God. Read Colossians 1:21, “And you, that were some time alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked worlds, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblamable and unreprovable in his sight.” This change from enmity to friendship with God is marked by the change of man’s judicial state before God. Before a man is converted he is condemned, but when he receives spiritual life we read “there is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” This altogether changes his condition and always causes an inward happiness. “Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through Jesus Christ our Lord;” which peace we never had before. “And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.” Conversion makes a difference in us else what did Christ mean when he said, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”? Does he give us no rest? Is one that comes to Jesus just as restless and as devoid of peace as before? No! Does not Jesus say that when we drink of the water which he gives to us we shall never thirst again? What! Are we to be told that there is never a time when we no longer thirst, never a time when that living water becomes in us a well of water, springing up unto everlasting life? In Hebrews 4:3, “We which have believed do enter into rest”? Our condition before God, our state of mind, are made by conversion totally different from what they were before. “Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” Conversion is the grand blessing of the covenant of grace. What said the Lord by his servant Jeremiah? “This shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; after these days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (Jeremiah 31:33.) This passage quoted in Hebrews 10:16, not to contradict them, but to prove there fulfilled in believers. And what has the Lord said by Ezekiel? (Ezekiel 36:26, 27.) Listen to the gracious passage, and see what a grand blessing conversion is; — “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh; and I will put my spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes; and ye shall keep my judgments and do them.” Is not this the blessing of the gospel by which we realize all the rest? Is not this the great work of the Holy Ghost by which we know the Father and the Son? And is not this needful to make us in accord with future glory? “He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new.” (Revelation 21:5.) There is to be a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth shall pass away; and can we believe that the old carnal nature is to enter into the new creation? Is that which is born of the flesh to enter into the spiritual kingdom? No; That which will pass over this world when Christ shall re-create it, must pass over each one of us. Do you know anything about this? I fear some are ignorant of it. Let those who are unconverted never rest till they have believed in Christ and have a new heart created in them and a right spirit bestowed upon them. A change must come over you which you cannot work in yourselves, but which must be wrought by divine power. Salvation is still of the LORD!