Monday, November 30, 2009

Regeneration: Implications for Gospel Ministry

In the first section of this series on the doctrine of regeneration, we considered the theology of the new birth. We looked at man's spiritual death (or total depravity), and how that spiritual death manifests itself in the inability to see. We looked at the freedom and sovereignty of God in salvation, and we considered the ordo salutis.

In the second section, we considered what implications all that theology had for the way that Christians, who by definition have experienced that new birth, live their Christian lives. As the theology section taught us that getting born again is impossible, we rejoiced to learn that God Himself grants what He requires. We discovered the freedom that that brings, as what was impossible for us to do is no longer burdensome. And we recognized that the means of justification is the means of sanctification; that is, the way we get regenerated is the same way we become more like Christ. And so we concluded with a resolve to fight the fight of holiness in the Christian life on the level of spiritual sight.

The final section in this series considers the implications of the theology of the new birth for how we as Christians go about doing Gospel ministry. As Christians, we love God and desire that He get the glory and worship He is worthy of from all of His creatures, and so there's a burden in our hearts to see other people get saved. So we want the new birth to happen more and more. And
the truths about the nature of the new birth teach us very much about how we go about evangelizing the world and trying to reconcile people to God through Jesus Christ (2Cor 5:20).

If it is the case that we cannot cause spiritual rebirth, we must employ only those methods that God Himself has declared He will use to regenerate His people. God will only bless the ministry or method of evangelism that comes from Him, that He Himself outlines and prescribes. And so we ask, "What is that? By what means does God sovereignly accomplish this glorious work called the new birth? By what means are hearts changed, souls awakened, eyes opened?" The Apostle Peter gives us the answer.
  • 1 Peter 1:23-25 - for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. For, "ALL FLESH IS LIKE GRASS, AND ALL ITS GLORY LIKE THE FLOWER OF GRASS. THE GRASS WITHERS, AND THE FLOWER FALLS OFF, BUT THE WORD OF THE LORD ENDURES FOREVER." And this is the word which was preached to you.
We have been born again of seed that is imperishable, that is, the living and enduring word of God. And this word of God is the word that was preached to Peter's audience. What word was preached to them? Answer: The Gospel! And what is that?

Here is a presentation of the Gospel by John Piper:
The Son of God came into the world clothed with human flesh as a God-man, lived a perfect life, and died in the place of sinners, so that all their sin is covered and it is finished! And the wrath of God has been absorbed in His suffering, and the guilt of man has been borne in His suffering, and a life of completed righteousness has been finished on the cross, which can be imputed to us, and the grave is empty … and now we can have eternal life because all of that – Christ’s birth, Christ’s life, Christ’s death, Christ’s absorbing wrath, Christ providing righteousness, Christ taking away guilt, Christ providing forgiveness of sins – all of that is offered freely to absolutely everybody who believes. For free. By faith alone, through grace alone, on the basis of the work of Christ alone, to the glory of God alone, as revealed in the Scriptures alone.
He goes on to lament that so many people who call themselves Christians are trying to improve on that Gospel. They're trying to make the best news in the world better. But this news is so great that you can't improve upon it. He challenges us:
I’m gonna give you an opportunity right now to stand up and tell me something greater than the Gospel. … Something greater than the Good News of what Christ has achieved in His death and His resurrection, and His reign, His substitution, His bearing the wrath of God, His taking away sin, His providing perfect righteousness, all to be enjoyed by faith alone apart from works. Something better than that!
Any of you wanna take a shot? Something better than that?

Of course you don’t! Because make no mistake! This Gospel is the very sole power of God for salvation! And yet so many of us who bear the name of Christ are ashamed of the Gospel! Shame on us! Paul says: "I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes" (Rom 1:16). It is, and nothing else is!

So I along with Piper ask you: What is more glorious? What is better news? What is more worth telling people? And if nothing, why do we insist on doing everything we can to confuse the matter of evangelism?! We are to Preach. The. Gospel! We're not to interview people. We're not to "share our faith." Nobody cares about your faith! But the people whom God is drawing to Himself care about Good News for their weary, sin-laden soul. And we Christians are the only ones with that Good News. You let the Muslim, the Jew, the scientologist, or the atheist share their faith. But you, men and women of God, you go out and preach the Gospel!

With the Word of God shut up in you like fire in your bones (Jer 20:9), go into all the world and preach this Gospel! The pure, unadulterated, imperishable, cannot-be-improved-upon, living, and enduring Word of God. It alone is the power of God for salvation. By it, people are born again!

Because it is through the preaching of the Gospel that this miracle of the new birth happens, we must consider what implications the theology of the new birth has for the way we evangelize.

In the exercise of His will He brought us forth
by the word of truth,
so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.
- James 1:18 -

1. The Theology of the New Birth
1.1. Man's Spiritual Death (Total Depravity)
1.2. The Dead Cannot See
1.3. The Wind Blows Where it Wishes: The Freedom of God and Irresistible Grace
1.4. Regeneration and Faith: Temporally Simultaneous but Logically Distinct

2. Implications for the Christian Life
2.1. God Grants What He Requires
2.2. The Impossible is No Longer Burdensome
2.3. The Means of Justification is the Means of Sanctification

3. Implications for Gospel Ministry
3.1. Introduction
3.2. Evangelism
3.3. Apologetics


Nick said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mike Riccardi said...

Nick, did you mean to comment on my blog, on this post?

If you have any comments relevant to this particular post, they're welcome.

Nick said...

Yes, I did mean to post that. You were speaking of the Gospel on how Christ's Righteousness is imputed, and in my study of the Scriptures I see no grounds for that.

Mike Riccardi said...

Nick. I see. I would still consider your post off topic.

The topic I was discussing was how a monergistic view of regeneration bears on how we evangelize.

I will say that you're basing a lot of your view on the work of a lexicon. I'm not sure which one, but often the best lexical work is done by liberal critics, men who deny inerrancy and thus in my opinion have denied the faith altogether. And whether the writers of this particular lexicon were solid believers or not, our theology must come from our reading of the Scriptures, not what "scholars" or "experts" tell us the Scriptures mean.

That's about as far as I'm willing to go with that here. I'd welcome your thoughts perhaps on a future post discussing the distinction between imputed and infused righteousness, or between Protestantism and Catholicism.

Thanks for commenting.

Nick said...

I respect your right to not post what you don't think relevant.

I would just like to add that the Lexicon I linked to is a respectable (not liberal) one. More importantly thought, I was not basing my conclusions on a lexicon, but instead going over all 40 occurrences of logizomai in the New Testament and noting the clear trend. The analysis I gave was pretty objective.

Thanks for your time.