• The Spirit and regeneration


    THE Spirit is either in your life or He isn't;
    thus it is not a case of getting more and
    more of the Spirit, but rather the Spirit
    getting more and more of us. Now our task
    will be to see when and how He comes to
    the individual life.
    A number of New Testament Passages
    susqest that, prior to conversion, we are
    deid in trespas-seas nd sins (Eph. 2:1, 5; Col.
    2:13). This means that, prior to the new
    birth, there must be an awakening. This
    awakening is the work of the Spirit. The
    impulse to turn to God depends upon ihe
    impact of the Spirit upon the human spirit.
    This awakening is not regeneration, but
    rather a preparation for it by prevenient
    grace, the grace that goes before and
    prepares for salvation. Awakened by the
    Spirit, the individual is soon led to a sense
    of suilt and condemnation because of sin.
    Coiviction is not the same as conversion but
    is also a preparation for it. Conviction is the
    work of the Spirit for Jesus said: When He
    (the Spirit) is come, He will reproae
    (cow:i,ctl the world, o/ sin (John 16:8).
    Perhaps we should pause to remind
    ourselves that this process does not take
    place in a vacuum. I have often heard it saidthat we can convince the mind but only the
    Spirit can convict the man. Now it is true
    that there is a work which belongs uniquely
    to the Spirit. Most people believe in the
    general law of retribution; that is, if we
    have done wrong, we will ultimately have to
    pay for it. However, to convince a morally
    upright man (though unconverted) that he
    already stands condemned is the work of
    the Spirit. Thus there is an element of truth
    in the statement that we can convince the
    mind, but only the Spirt can convict the
    man, but the two experiences should not be
    separated. For example, I wonder if we
    realize that every conversion in the Acts of
    the Apostles was through human instrumentality.
    This was true, even in the
    exceptional cases: In Acts 10, God spoke to
    Cornelius through an angel, but the angel
    didn't tell him how to be converted: Send.
    men to Joppa. . . Simon shall teII thee
    u.tords u.herebE thou ond ail thy house shaV
    be saaed (Acts 11:13, 14). In Acts 9, God
    broke into the life of Saul of Tarsus in a
    miraculous way, but He didn't tell him how
    to be saved: Arise ond go into the citg ond,
    it shall be told, thee what thou must do
    (Acts 9:6 - told through Ananias). Thus we
    can see that although conviction is the work
    of the Spirit, He works in conjunction with
    human co-oneration.
    At this p6int, a decision is required from
    the individual. The Spirit has done His work
    in bringing about both an awakening and
    conviction. We must now turn to God in
    repentance and faith. Repentance is the
    sincere desire and determination to forsake
    sin and obey God. It is a change of mind
    that leads to a change of direction. It
    includes such experiences as: hatred of sin,
    sorrow for sin, renunciation of sin, confession
    of sin, desire for forgiveness, willingness
    to make restitution. Repentance
    must, of course, be aceompanied by saving
    iaith. This faith is that act of personal heart
    trust by which the sinner commits himself
    to God, and accepts as his own the salvation
    which God so freely offers.
    When man is willing to meet these conditions,
    God the Holy Spirit enters his life
    and regeneration takes place. Regeneration
    is the communication of life by the Spirit to
    a soul dead in trespasses and sins. The experience
    has been described bv such terms
    as born again (John 3:3\, bom-of God (John
    l:13), bom of the Spirit (John 3:5, 61, possed
    from death unto l:ife (John 5:24I.It issues in
    a new mind (1 Cor. 2:14), a new will (1 John
    5:3; 2 Cor. 5:14-15), and new affections -
    Thomas Chalmers called regeneration the
    "expulsive power of a new affection."
    At the moment of regeneration, the individual
    also experiences the forgiveness of
    sins and adoption into the family of God.
    The Apostle Paul refers to the former by
    using the broader term of justification
    (Romans 5:1). Justification implies that God
    not only forgives but also forgets. He treats
    me "just as if' I had never sinned. Lincoln
    was once asked how he was going to treat
    the rebellious southerners after they had
    been subdued and brought back into the
    union. Said Lincoln, "I will treat them just as
    if they had never been away." That attitude
    expresses more than forgiveness, for
    Lincoln was willing not only to forgive but
    also to forget. That is justification.
    At the moment of regeneration, we are
    adopted into the family of God. We hear a
    great deal these days of the "universal
    Fatherhood of God" which suggests that
    God is the Father of all men. It is true that
    by creation u/e ar€ the children of God, but
    only by recreation (regeneration) do we
    become his adopted sons. The difference can
    be seen by examining two closely related
    words. "Paternity," for example, suggests a
    relationship in which the father is responsible
    for the physical existence of the child.
    There may be little other connection
    between father and son. "Fatherhood," on
    the other hand, suggests an intimate relationship
    in which father and son grow
    closer to each other with the passing of the
    days. In the former sense, all are the
    children of God through creation. We are
    adopted only when we respond to the
    gracious invitation to commit our lives to
    Christ.
    What we have described thus far is the
    work of the Spirit in conversion. It is important
    for us to realize that it is at this
    point the Holy Spirit enters the life. He
    does not come to our lives at the time of the
    "second blessing" or when we are "sanctified,"
    He enters our lives when we are
    "saved." Romans 8:9 suggests if onE mon
    haue not the Spirit . . . he is none of lr?r. Of
    course, this is when initial holiness begins.
    For example, such words as "holy," "sanctified"
    and "saint" all come from the same
    root Hagins. The word "saint," however,
    describes our position in Christ rather than
    our attainment in grace.
    Any man who is "saved" is by the New
    Testament definition a saint (though he may
    not be very "saintly"). However, although
    "saint" and "holy" come from the same root,
    we must be careful not to equate "sainthood"
    with what we choose to call the state
    of being "entirely sanctified." Let me illustrate
    from Paul's letter to the Church ataddresses
    himself to the clmrch of God which
    is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in
    Christ Jesus, callcd to be sdnts (1 Cor. 1:2).
    But as early as chapter 3, we begin to
    realize many of these people were not enjoying
    the life of holiness. And I brethren,
    could, not speak unto Aou o,s unto spiritunl
    but as unto carnal. . . for u,hereas there is
    unong gou enuy'ing ond strife ond d:ivisinns,
    are Ae not carnal. ond u;alk a,s men? (L Cor.
    3:1, 3).
    Thus there is a sense in which at conversion,
    we experience initial holiness but
    this is not the experience spoken oi in our
    tenth Article of Faith: We belinae it is the
    priuilcge of all belicuers to be 'whollE
    sonctifi,ed," and, that their wholc spirit and,
    soul and body may be preseraed, blnmelcss
    unto the coming of orn Lord. Jesus Christ.
    In our next lesson we will consider the
    difference in the Spirit residing and ruling,
    for it is one thing to realize the presence of
    the Spirit, but quite another to experience
    the "fullness of the Spirit."