The topic for Sunday morning’s sermon was regeneration, that gracious work of the Holy Spirit whereby he gives us a new heart in order that we may answer God’s call to salvation by putting our faith in Jesus Christ. I preached on this spiritual rebirth from Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus in John 3, in which he tells the Pharisee: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (v.3). We learned three truths about regeneration from this passage (and other Scripture).
One, regeneration is necessary for salvation. Because of our sin, we are by nature “dead in our trespasses” (Ephesians 2:5). We can no more come to Christ by faith than a corpse can climb out of his coffin. But God makes us spiritually alive by the grace of rebirth, so that we can respond with faith and repentance to his call in the gospel. Apart from this new birth, no amount of religion or piety makes us fit for God’s kingdom. Nicodemus had both in spades, but he could not see God’s kingdom until he was born again.
Two, regeneration is a gift of God’s grace. When Jesus said “You must be born again” (v.7), he was not issuing a command. Rather, he was making a statement of truth. Just as no one “commanded” us to be born the first time, so God does not command us to be spiritually reborn. This new birth is entirely the gift of God’s grace; it is the work of the sovereign Spirit who, like the wind, “blows where it wishes” (v.8). As John puts it earlier in his Gospel, we are born “… not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (1:13).
Third, regeneration results in Christian faith, love, and obedience. In the order of salvation, regeneration precedes faith because faith is the product of the new birth (John 1:12, 13; 1 John 5:1). Those who have been born again by the grace of God not only put their faith in Christ, but also practice righteousness (1 John 2:29), do not make a practice of sinning (1 John 3:9), know God (1 John 4:7), love the Father (1 John 5:1), and overcome the world (1 John 5:4). In other words, a new heart is the fount out of which flows all Christian faith, love, and obedience.
It “just so happened” that before the service the adult Sunday School class watched a video lecture on regeneration by Dr. Sinclair Ferguson. He also spoke on John 3 and made many of the same points I was planning to make. So it seems the Lord wanted us to learn about this important subject on Sunday!
We were privileged on Sunday morning to receive a new family as members of the congregation. I am grateful to the Lord for bringing these dear saints to us, and trust they will both be a blessing to the church and find the church a blessing to them.
At the evening service I preached on the death of Christ, following the questions and answers grouped under Lord’s Day 16 of the Heidelberg Catechism. The timing was felicitous, as we also celebrated the Lord’s Supper that evening. So both the sermon and the sacrament proclaimed “the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26).
On Saturday several of us met for a second time to discuss the book The Reformation: How a Monk and a Mallet Changed the World by Stephen J. Nichols. Since this year marks the 500th-year anniversary of the Reformation, we are focusing on that for our book discussions (what I call “Theology Class”) this year. Nichols’ book is a great introduction to the entire subject, with lots of fascinating historical detail. The next book we’ll study goes deeper into the theology of the Reformers: Why the Reformation Still Matters by Michael Reeves and Tim Chester.
I’m looking forward to more great Theology Classes!
Soli Deo Gloria!