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."