[ Doctrine in Detail ]

Topic: VII. Salvation

Lesson: C. Regeneration and Justification

The last chapter dealt with God's election of some people to salvation and the doctine of the responsibility of Man to obey God and to choose to do good. This chapter continues with a discussion of what happens at the time or point when a person becomes a believer.

Objective: To understand the doctrines of Regeneration and Justification.

First, we need to understand definitions for several terms that relate to salvation, and then further discuss the two doctrines of regeneration and justification.

1. Terms Related to Salvation

A Salvation Army teenage girl did not recognize Charles Spurgeon, the famous London preacher. She stopped him on the sidewalk and asked, "Are you saved?"

He replied, "Do you mean have I been saved, am I being saved, or will I be saved?

She answered, "I mean, sir, are you saved from Hell?"

This is a true story about an unknown girl and one of the most famous preachers of all time, Charles Spurgeon. The point is that we are rightly concerned about our friends and family being saved from Hell, or the penalty of sin. These are one time events that happen when a person receives Jesus Christ as their savior. But salvation includes more than those one time events. There is a life long growing in Christ (being saved) and we will all one day have a resurrection body when Christ returns to the earth (will be saved). We are completely saved from death and the penalty of sin (have been saved), but we will not be completely saved from the presence of sin and its power until we meet Christ. The theological terms wer use for these aspects of salvation are:

This chapter deals with the events which happen at the moment of salvation, with adoption being included in the discussion of regeneration. The next chapter will talk about sanctification and perseverence, while glorification will wait until a later chapter when we discuss end time events.

2. Regeneration

"Regeneration, or the New Birth, is an instantaneous creative acto f God through the agency of the Holy Spirit, whereby divine life is imparted to those dead in sin, making them members of the family of God." (Bible Fellowship Church (BFC) Article of Faith - 14) People are spiritually dead, dead in sin, until they are born again. This is something God does, through the Holy Spirit. At the same time, we are adopted as children of God, and as brothers or sisters to all that are in the body of Christ (the Church).

"... Jesus declared, 'I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again. ... Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.'"(John 3:3, 6-7) Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be born again. When I heard the gospel, I thought this was only a phrase made up by Billy Graham, but as we see, it is an important phrase in the Bible. The rebirth is necessary, otherwise, we cannot see the Kingdom of Heaven. This is the only way, just as Jesus is the only way. The birth is given through the Holy Spirit. Jesus died for our sins, and when we accept this and trust in Jesus, the Holy Spirit gives us new life. We cannot be exactly sure of which happens first, our trusting or our new life. They are practically instantaneous.

"For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God."(1st Peter 1:23) Peter wrote that we are born again through the word of God. Some Mennonites would say that this Word of God should be capitalized, and is Jesus. Generally, we interpret this 'word' as not capitalized, and realize that people must hear the gospel (people must witness) and through hearing they come to faith. But either way, the Holy Spirit gives us a new birth and this is like a seed that will never die. Our first birth only leads to death, but this birth leads to eternal life. Now if the seed cannot die or be killed, that is how secure our new birth is. We cannot kill it or lose it.

"He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit"(Titus 3:5) We know that baptism by water is a symbol of washing away of sins, and it is also a symbol of being buried with Christ and then rising. But the washing of rebirth here is done by the Holy Spirit. I believe that this is the baptism (or washing) of the Holy Spirit, which happens at the same time as the new birth. "Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God -- children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God."(John 1:12-13) This verse reminds us that the new birth is given to those who receive Christ. This is a decision which must be made, to accept Christ and His sacrifice for our sins. The right to become Children of God is also given. This is not the same time of child as Jesus, who is the natural son. We are adopted sons and daughters. This is also why we can boldly approach the throne of God, because we are His adopted children. In one sense we are humble before the creator of all things, but on the other hand, we boldly approach Him as our Father.

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"(2nd Corinthians 5:17) The new birth is a new creation. Adam was created with spiritual life, but since his sin all people have been born in the state of dying. The rebirth is a new creation, an act of God through the Holy Spirit. It is spiritual life. We have to take this verse in the context of all that Scripture teaches, for instance, we still struggle with sin. 'The old has gone' does not mean that the old self and the tendencies to sin are completely gone. The spiritual death is gone, the living spirit is new, but we still face problems that we faced before we were born again. And if we were heavily into financial debt, we probably are still in financial debt after being born again. BUT there is a new quality to life, and a spiritual life and relationship with God and our fellow believers that did not exist before. "He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created."(James 1:8) He (Christ) chose to give us birth. It is not something that we do ourselves, and we do not 'force' God to give us new life, or buy it from Him. It is His choice

3. Justification

"Justification is the act of God's grace whereby the sinner is declared righteous solely through faith in the redemptive work of Christ. By this action the righteousness of Christ is imputed, sin is pardoned, and the sinner is restored to divine favor." (BFC Article 15.1) At the same time we are regenerated, we are justified. They are two aspects of the same salvation. It is like talking about the hardness or softness of a ball, then discussing how round or out of shape it is, then discussing its color. All of those descriptions are about the same ball. Justification is part of salvation, and it is a way of describing some of the consequences of being saved. Theologians may argue about whether we are regenerated before we are justified, or whether God decided to declare us just before He decided to give us new life, but the Bible itself does not go in these circles of reason. It is enough to consider what it means to be regenerated and justified.

Justification is being declared just or right with God. Justice is a similar word. We are declared to be right with God because God gives us the righteousness that Jesus demonstrated during His earthly life. Adam was never postively righteous. He was without sin when created, but that doesn't mean that he had accomplished good things for God. After Adam sinned, no one was ever able to accomplish pure goodness or righteousness, we have always been tainted with sin. Jesus came to die for our sins, but He also lived a perfect and righteous life.

What must one believe to be saved and justified? If we took the 30 or so lessons of this course, most of us did not know all of these things when we were saved. We must, however, believe or trust in the work of Christ, specifically that He died to take away our sins.

"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God."(Romans 5:1-2) We are justified though faith, faith or trust in Jesus is the essential ingredient. Justified or declared right with God means that we have peace with God and can approach His throne (in prayer) without fear. How can a mortal dare to speak to God about everyday concerns? Simply because we are 'right with God' and Jesus has given us this access. What a gift!

"Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses."(Acts 13:39) This verse makes clear that we could not be justified or be declared righteous (which is tied to our sins being taken away) by the law of Moses. This is because no person (except Jesus) has ever lived a sinless life. But everyone who believes (or trusts) is justified. Although God choses to save and justify, this verse also reminds us that everyone who will trust in Christ will be justified - it is an open invitation to believe.

"Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died-- more than that, who was raised to life-- is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us."(Romans 8:33-34) Perhaps you remember the opening chapters of Job, where Satan is before the throne of God and accuses Job of being selfish. But once we are justified, no one, not even Satan, can legitimately bring charges against us. We will survive the Last Judgement. One reason for this is that Jesus is constantly speaking on our behalf to the Father.

"Consequently, just as the result of the one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men."(Romans 5:18) Adam sinned and all mankind was condemned. We all are born to die, since the eating of the forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden. But in a similar way, Jesus died one death, and that single act resulted in His righteousness being given to all who trust in Him.

"God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."(2nd Corinthians 5:21) Just as we had stated that we are born again only because of Jesus, Paul tells us that we are declared righteous only because Jesus took our sin on the cross. Jesus lived a perfect life, but died for sin (our sin) on the cross. There is no other way to be declared righteous. No matter how good of a work we might do, perhaps give our lives for a great cause, it is not enough to balance out the sin in our life. The sin has to be taken away by Jesus.

"Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon."(Isaiah 55:7) Isaiah reminds us that there is an open invitation for every man, woman, and child to repent and to call upon the Lord. While we believe fully in God's choice to save sinners, we must remember that God asks everyone to turn to Him. If anyone, even a murderer or a terrorist, will turn to the Lord, the Lord WILL freely pardon. God is good, and He is a God of mercy, even mercy to 'the evil man' who is told to repent. This offends many people - that someone we consider to be worse than us can be freely saved! Yet, we have all sinned and deserve death. How can we deny God's grace to other sinners?


Written Assignment:

What is the difference between regeneration and justification? In what ways are they similar?

Reading Assignment:

Ryrie: Chapters 48, 49, 52, and 56; BFC Articles 14 and 15.


Key Verses:

"... Jesus declared, 'I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again. ... Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.'"(John 3:3, 6-7)

"Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses."(Acts 13:39)

Additional References:

"Regeneration, or the New Birth, is an instantaneous creative acto f God through the agency of the Holy Spirit, whereby divine life is imparted to those dead in sin, making them members of the family of God." (Bible Fellowship Church (BFC) Article of Faith - 14)

"Justification is the act of God's grace whereby the sinner is declared righteous solely through faith in the redemptive work of Christ. By this action the righteousness of Christ is imputed, sin is pardoned, and the sinner is restored to divine favor." (BFC Article 15.1)


All Bible quotations are from the New International Version (NIV), (C)Copyright 1984 by the International Bible Society, used by permission.
Doctrine in Detail (C)Copyright 2002 by Ronald Miller, All Rights Reserved

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