Ordo Salutis: Regeneration, Part 1

Regeneration. The very word speaks hope to my soul. I have long been fascinated by this topic, and it would be suffice to say that this is the topic I cut my theological teeth on. This was the first, and most life changing truth I have yet to so graciously be allowed to learn, and I hope that I will be able to bless you with the same truth.

 

Dead To God

 Dead. The very word gives an idea of hopelessness beyond repair. We often see that culture believes the worst thing that could happen to a person is death. We fear death. We spend our entire lives either ignoring or running from death. We know that there is a certain hopelessness to being dead. And before we get to the life changing ability of Regeneration, we need to first affirm that Man is dead.

 Let’s start in Genesis, the book of beginnings. Remember God’s first no-no in the Bible? He said:

 “You shall surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Genesis 2:16-17

 Notice what God says. You shall surely die. God basically is promising death if Adam and Eve eat of the tree that He has forbidden. They will die. What happens next? First sin, they eat of the tree. But wait, did they die? Well, obviously, no. Since we are alive, then the only humans alive couldn’t have died before they had kids. So what then? Is God a liar? Not so fast. Adam and Eve did die. They died to God. Or rather, if you want to sound mystic, they died spiritually. But what does this even mean? What would being dead spiritually even look like?

 I put forth to you that the idea of spiritual death is so foreign to us and sounds so weird is because all we know is spiritual deadness. We live in a fallen world so what is dead seems alive, what is broken seems fixed, and what is sinful is actually admired. To be dead to God is the norm for human beings, in fact the vast majority of humans will live and die physically without ever being alive spiritually. So what does being dead spiritually do to us? Well, (as has already been put forth by another writer on this blog) it means that every choice we make is marred, ruined, and only ever for, sin.

 Our heart is the source of our will. And sin has corrupted our heart through Adam’s first trespass (see Romans 5 for more on that). So, logic would follow that our wills are corrupted by sin. What does this mean practically? Romans says it best:

 “None is righteous, no, not one;

no one understands;

no one seeks God.”

Romans 3:10

 No one can even begin to look for God. How depressing is that? It’d be one thing to say that we can’t find God. But the Bible goes so far as to say that whole notion that someone is ‘seeking’ God is completely erroneous and, frankly, stupid. Sin has so corrupted us that we are so utterly wretched and vile sinners that we cannot even begin to look for light.

 But before this post becomes even more depressing, and turns into a passage straight out of Ecclesiastes and Lamentations, we need to see this. That it is in this darkness, this complete and utter shadow of sin, that the light of Christ breaks, smashes, and thunders into. The beauty of the gospel is that it invades dark spaces, and here we are, in the most dark space of them all, and Jesus comes to us.

 

Nick At Night

 So Jesus did some cool party tricks. Turned some water into wine, and all of sudden he was a pretty big deal. All of a sudden Rabbis are saying he’s from God. We pick up in chapter 3 of the Gospel of John, where Jesus has a little late nate chat with a guy named Nicodemus.

“This man [Nicodemus] came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”

John 3:2

 So Nicodemus gives Jesus a kudos of sorts and says good job to Jesus. But Jesus’ response is awesome, check it:

 “Truly, truly I say to you unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

John 3:3

 Remember a few lines ago when I said that it’s stupid to say that someone is seeking God? Well now Jesus echos it in a way by saying no one can even see the Kingdom of God. Forget even becoming a Christian, before you can barely even see the goal you have to be born again. That’s how depraved man is. We can go nowhere without being born again.

 Now I remember reading this passage for the first time and thinking what Nicodemus says next:

 “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb?”

John 3:4

 Naturally, that’s the obvious conclusion of what Jesus just said. This shows that what Jesus is putting forth is so radcially new, so insanely different to what Nicodemus was used to. Nicodemus, a teacher of the Jews, was totally lost. This idea that we could be “reborn” that God could change who we are, it’s the kind of thing you only hear about in prophecy! (Ezekiel 36: 26)

 Now Jesus sees Nicodemus’ confusion and gives a response that gives us clarification to what Jesus said before.

 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

 John 3: 4-8

 Remember where we started. We started with the notion that no person can begin to even seek God because we are so radically and utterly depraved that that us un-holy creatures could never approach a holy and perfect God. But wait, Jesus gives us an alternative. We are not left in the muck and mire of our sin. Now Jesus is giving us an escape, an escape from being apart from God. We can now enter the kingdom of God. I think we’ve grown descentived to the idea of God’s kingdom because we forget the urgency. Listen up. Stop thinking about all other things and focus on what I’m about to say: You are going to hell without Jesus. You are dead spiritually, and cannot come near to God unless Jesus saves you. You cannot and will not be a “good person” and God won’t “just let you in”. You will go to hell. But wait! That is not the end. There is hope for you. The Bible doesn’t simply say you’re going to hell, then it ends. NO! We rejoice as Christians because we know that our God is so amazing, so loving, so gracious, that we don’t get what we deserve!

 So often we think that all we need is to get what we deserve. We have this disgusting pride that tells us that we’re so great, so wonderful, so incredibly amazing that we deserve great things! Yet this flies directly in the face of scripture. We are told in scripture that we “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” and that “wages of sin is death” (Romans 3:23, 6:23). We deserve, not only physical death, but eternal conscious torment for the sins we have committed. But what’s beautiful about the Gospel, and glorious about our God, is that he won’t just leave us in the muck and mire that we deserve. He is willing to rescue and save us.

 I want to make a point on regeneration here now and how sin is involved in it. See when Jesus says “what is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit”. Here’s why we need regeneration: because we born of the flesh. Being born of the flesh leads to us never becoming Christians, we won’t ever choose God in our sinful flesh. So what does God do? To save us from our inevitable death, God regenerates his elect to choose him.

I want to take time and explain this thought very carefully because I often find it a point of misunderstanding in the predestination debate. What we as people of the Reformed camp say is not that God just forces man to choose him. We believe people have free will. God doesn’t override free will, he doesn’t force compliance. Instead what he does is not leave us dead in our sin, but rather make us alive so we can see his glorious light. Let me put it just plain and directly: 1. We cannot choose God spiritually dead 2. God doesn’t force compliance 3. If we were spiritually alive, we would choose God 4. God makes us spiritually alive 5. We follow our newly regenerated heart (remember, the will of man flows out of the heart), and choose God.

 That is what Jesus is getting at here in John 3. He is saying that only those born of the spirit can enter the kingdom of heaven. Next post we will look into what Jesus calls hearing the sound of the wind, and by that I mean the effects of Regeneration  that can be found in Romans 6.

 

 


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Ordo Salutis: God’s Call

When I say Gospel Call, what do you think of? You may think of a great Evangelist or maybe an old school altar call. But really the Gospel call goes much, much deeper than just one man preaching truth. The Gospel Call is something that shakes us to the core of our being, and is a call not of man, but of the King of the Universe.

Can I Get An Amen?

I grew up in a Reformed church. Now, while I love my local church and love my Reformed theology, I am fascinated more by Pentecostal services. While I would never fit in at a Pentecostal church, the preaching at these kind of services amaze me. I can almost guarantee that there will be somebody on a piano ready to play when the preacher starts yelling, and the people will rise up and they will all be clapping and shouting “Amen!”. I love these churches because they are so vibrant and alive that you can feel the energy.

A lot of the preachers at these kind of churches are known for something called ‘call and response preaching’. In this they will say things like “Can I get an Amen?” or “Lift your hands to God’s glory!”, and the audience will reply, naturally, with an Amen and lifting their hands. Now, as I was recently watching one of these kind of services online, I began thinking of the Gospel Call. I began thinking of this ‘call and response’ that God gives to us. As I began to workout this analogy I began seeing where it broke down, namely, in the response.

The Missing Link

The main scripture I want to look at today is Romans 8:28-30.

“28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

This passage is very important not only to this one topic, but to this series as a whole. Here we see a Biblical order for how Salvation works out. So when we talk about our Ordo Salutis, I believe all conversations should begin here. Now, also in this passage we see something very important, the call in verse 30. Here Paul says that all who are Predestined, are called. Now we need to remember that we have been Predestined to be objects of God’s saving grace. But how does this work out? How does this theoretical Predestination translate to something that is practical and tangible? The answer, is the call.

Paul says all those who are called, are justified. Eventually we will get to the topic of Justification, where I can give a full explanation of and implication of the topic, but for now I believe a simple definition will suffice. Justification is an act of God where God the Father pardons, accepts, and declares righteous a sinner on behalf of Christ’s righteousness.  So, what Paul says is the link between the Predestining of sinners to be Justified and the actual Justification of the sinners, is the calling of said sinners.

The Tale of Two Calls

Let us pause for a moment and just define what in the world we are talking about. Ok, before I can define what a call is, you need to grab hold of a theological concept, that is the idea of the difference between The Gospel Call and God’s Effective Call.

The Gospel Call is pretty self explanatory. When someone is sharing the Gospel, it should always end in a call. Imagine if an evangelist got up at a revival conference, and he shared the Gospel. He explains God and His holiness, then he shows how man was created in the image of God and how we as a race had committed acts of Cosmic Treason called sin. He preaches the need of humanity for a Savior from our sin, and how God sent his Son to die and rise again for our sin, then the evangelist walked off the stage. The entire message would be almost pointless. Unless the Gospel is accompanied by a call for response then really, what was the point? The Gospel Call is when someone is called by a Preacher to be saved, but God’s Effective Call is above and beyond that.

God’s Effective Call is the call used upon the Elect at the point of salvation, this call that is not only a proposition, but a command. We see this here in Romans 8:30. You will recall that the call is the link between predestination and justification. Here’s what I need you to see: all those who are called are justified. We clearly are talking about God’s effective call here. God is not playing around with this call, this one is used on the elect, those whom God chose. Those who experience God’s Effective Call are those who will be saved. This call is not going to come back void, because it comes from the very throne of the universe.

What’s The Point?

Why should we study this idea of a effectual call? What’s even the point of this post? Let me give you two reasons.

1. It’s in the Bible.

Use this as a general rule: If it’s in the Bible, it’s important. You don’t get to decide what to study and what not to study in the Bible. It’s in there for a reason. I’ve heard some say that on subjects like this that are particularly divisive, we shouldn’t focus too much on them because people can get offended. That is a horrific thing to say! Look, if we took all the offensive stuff out of the Bible there wouldn’t be anything left to read. Also, if it’s a point of confusion among Christians, than all the more reason to study it! So we can help out our brothers and sisters in Christ.

2. Encouragement To Evangelize

There’s a saying I hear all the time, “Work like an Arminian, sleep like a Calvinist”. I think that might be one of the most misinformed things I have ever heard. I hate it because it connotates that Calvinist take it easy on evangelism, which is a particularly heinous thing to say when the truth is the exact opposite. I want to work and sleep like a Calvinist. I want to work so that I know that my work won’t be in vain, and that all those who can be saved will be. It also humbles us in evangelism because we know that it’s not our preaching that convinces people, but God’s call. As Mark Driscoll puts it, “You only have access to people’s ears, but the Holy Spirit has access to people’s hearts.”

Irresistible?

The obvious question with the idea of God’s Effective Call is this: Does man have a choice? Is there even an option on refusing God’s call? Refusing God’s grace? And if they can’t, wouldn’t that make people just puppets, with no real love at all?

An answer is needed and will be given. That is what I endeavor to answer with my post on Regeneration next week.

-The Ransomed Sinner

Ordo Salutis: Election

Calvin

Election is easily one of the hottest debate topics in all of Christianity. I’m going to put my opinion out there now, just to get it out of the way. I’m a full-on Five Point Calvinist. I am very much Reformed in my soteriology, really past the point of no return. Now, I don’t want to spend this post defending nor arguing for Calvinism. The whole point of this series isn’t to prove my Order of Salvation is better than yours, but rather to remember how salvation is God’s act of glorifying himself. Predestination is not special in this regard. I want to stand aside, set my opinions aside, and let God’s glory shine through what I write.

What Election Really Is

Many people (Arminians in particular, but not just them) often have a misconception of how I view election. People throw all kinds of accusations at Calvinist that aren’t even true. So I would like to take a brief moment and talk about what Election really is not.

Let’s blast before we build. Election is not an abolition of free will. Election is not a free license to sin without ever truly repentance. Election is not God choosing people to go to hell.  Many will often say that holding to predestination makes Calvinist’s cold-hearted and that we play, what my favorite preacher calls, “Duck-Duck-Damnation”, where we don’t evangelize to lost people. Sadly, this is slandering our point of view by saying that we are dangerous, and that our doctrine is hateful and cruel. That isn’t even close to what the truth is.

Now that we’ve blasted, we can build! Election is God’s sovereign choosing of people to be objects of his saving grace. It’s important to remember our situation when God saves us. We are not naturally good. Rather we are the exact opposite. We are horrifically sinful, evil, and utterly horrendous people! As I said, election is not an abolition of free will, but rather our will leads us not towards God but in opposite direction towards hell. God then sees us running towards hell and instead of letting us perish and die forever like we deserve, He instead is so amazing, so insanely loving, so filled with grace, that He is willing to choose and save those who despise him and spit in his face. And that is the heart and motive in Election. Not some cold-hearted, cruel, loveless salvation, but the exact opposite! The fact that God is  willing to look at us and say “Mine” when all we do is rebel against him, I can do nothing but worship him; this is what election is all about.

What Election Is All About

Now that we know what we’re even talking about, let’s look at God’s amazing work of election that shows his Glory ever so brightly and lovely. Let’s examine the beginning of Ephesians 1:

4 even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, 6 to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved.

Let’s take this nice and slow. God (He in verse 4) chose us before the world began. Typically what happens is the Calvinist will stop after the foundations of the world part and just keep on debating. I say that because I have done it. It is so easy to get caught up in the argument, to forget what God’s reason behind predestination is. And here in Ephesians we see three of his reasons.

JLY

1. Love: God’s love is one of the most cliched attributes of God. We have said ‘Jesus loves you’ so many times that it has become waves against a rock; there’s no effect. We need to stop for a second and consider this. Jesus loves you. The almighty, self-sufficient, holy, all-knowing God of the universe loves you. It becomes extremely personal with predestination, because God chooses you, specifically you. Not because of anything you’ve done, but completely out of grace. Grace is key here, because then and only then can we understand the glory of God. Whenever I read verses on predestination it strikes me how often the love and grace of God are so closely tied to election. I’ll give you an example. In Malachi 1:2-3 when God says that he loves Israel, and they question His love, He goes to His sovereign choice over who His people would be. It says ““I have loved you,” says the Lord. But you say, “How have you loved us?” “Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated.” The incredible emphasis of the text is that it is entirely in God’s hands who he chooses to love. Of course this opens up questions over how God can be said to be selective in his love with one verse and seemingly universal in others (such as John 3:16) and that is an important topic that will be addressed elsewhere. For here though we must rest, as Christians, in the incredible truth that God has decided to love us and that choice was entirely his. Both Ephesians 1 and Malachi 1 show this breathtaking truth clearly.  This isn’t a point to defend predestination, rather God uses it to defend His love! Jesus loves you! Praise Him for his love!

2. Adoption: Now I don’t want to spend too much on this point, as I am hoping not to spoil the forthcoming post on adoption, but a word on it is needed here. God doesn’t just elect us to be some faceless number in his Kingdom, but rather to be a beloved member of His family (Galatians 3:26). God is so amazing, that He goes beyond dying for us (which is far beyond what we even deserve) , but now he makes us part of His own family! We are now heirs of the kingdom, to one day be allowed to glorify Him in His presence (Galatians 4:7)! I want to plant a thought in your head to ponder until I write on adoption again, and that is this: why are there genealogies in the Bible? Why did God think it needed to list names in the Bible that no one can pronounce, and these people are never mentioned again? Think about it.

3. His Glorious Grace: Oh the glories of God’s grace! That we mere mortals that rebel day and night against the almighty, holy God, could taste the sweetness of grace. The Gospel is the full expression of all of God’s attributes. There we see God’s sovereignty, God’s glory, God’s mercy, God’s justice, and the most amazing of them all, His Glorious Grace. Why do we deserve this? We don’t! Plain and simple! We deserve death and punishment for what we have done. That’s the glory in God’s Glorious Grace. That He loves us just the way we are and is willing to die for us while we are still sinners. Thanks and praise be to him! Never cease to think of God’s Glorious Grace! Go forth and praise his name, making his name great in all nations. Thank God for His Glorious Grace.

-The Ransomed Sinner

Ordo Salutis: An Introduction

We are sinners. It’s not a new statement, it’s literally thousands of years old. As Christians, we believe that all are sinners (Romans 3:23), and no one is good (Romans 3:10). With this in mind, we look upon God. God is holy and righteous, which basically means He’s the opposite of sin. He cannot sin and is perfect. He is also a just God who, when he sees sin, wishes nothing more than to throw the perpetrator into Hell. He hates sin. He becomes angry at sin. He cannot stand the sight of it. What needs to be done is that someone needs to be punished for sin. The person who obviously deserve the punishment is the sinner. In that case, we all deserve Hell. But wait! There is one more thing about God that needs to be said. God is loving. The Bible goes so far to say that “God is love” (1 John 4:8). This loving God “wants all to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4). While all are not saved (we’ll get to that), we know that God does save. He sent his perfect Son, Jesus, to live a sinless life and a die a perfect death, that atonement could be paid for the elect (again, we’ll get to that).

We call this the Gospel. That a just God would love us to the point of sacrificing his Son so that people might come to a relationship with the Father. What happens when God so moves in the life of people is they become “saved” as we have come to call it. They have experienced salvation. What becomes the questions of almost every Christian is, “What now?” What does a Christian do now that they are “saved”? I believe that every Christian first needs to learn exactly what Salvation is. What this great mysterious wonder that changes lives, saves lives, is. We need to tell them of the love the Election, the life-changing power of Regeneration, the guiltless feeling of Justification and so on. And that’s what I want to do. To explain what I believe salvation is.

The order of salvation is called Ordo Salutis in Latin. The Ordo Salutis is one of the most important doctrines of Christianity because It tells what being a Christian means. There are differing opinions on how the Ordo Salutis is in sequence. Historically this has been the subject of much debate. Here at Proclaiming His Glory, we will be following Wayne Grudem’s explanation in his Systematic Theology.

1. Election (God’s choice of people to be saved)

2. The Gospel Call (proclaiming the message of the Gospel)

3. Regeneration (being born again)

4. Conversion (faith and repentance)

5. Justification (right legal standing)

6. Adoption (membership in God’s family)

7. Sanctification (right conduct of life)

8. Perseverance (remaining a Christian)

9. Death (going to be with the Lord)

10. Glorification (receiving a resurrection body)

In the next ten weeks on every Friday I want to take time for us to study and fully understand what each of these means for us. I want to end this introduction with something to keep in mind as we study these topics: this is all about Jesus. The whole reason God became a man and lived a perfect life and then died a sinless death was for His glory. We are here to proclaim His glory, and what better way to do that than remember his most amazing and awesome act, the Gospel and the salvation it brought. Never forget that God didn’t die for us, but for his glory. We are saved only to worship his almighty name. Let the ransomed sinners rejoice. Our God is a saving God.

-The Ransomed Sinner