- Table of Contents
- CHAPTER 1. The Enormity of the Error of Perverting the Gospel
- CHAPTER 2. The Biblical Terms of Salvation vs. Modern Day Misconceptions
- CHAPTER 3. The Lordship of Christ in Salvation
- CHAPTER 4. Regeneration: The Creation of a New Man
- CHAPTER 5. Sanctification: The Growth of the New Man
- CHAPTER 6. We Walk By Faith Not By Sight
- CHAPTER 7. Taking Up Our Cross: An Essential Requirement in Salvation
- CHAPTER 8. What is a Carnal Christian?
- CHAPTER 9. Bear or Burn: The Fruit of Obedience in the Parables of Christ
- CHAPTER 10. Saint or Sinner?
- CHAPTER 11. Righteousness vs. Self-righteousness
- CHAPTER 12. Can a Christian Backslide?
- CHAPTER 13. Love vs Law—Legalism—License
- CHAPTER 14. Sin and the Misinterpretation of Romans 7
- CHAPTER 15. Examine Yourselves as to Whether You Are in the Faith
- APPENDIX 1. Quotes and Confessions in Church History
- APPENDIX 2. Scriptural Evidence for the Necessity of Obedience in Salvation
Clinging to a Counterfeit Cross
by James P. Shelly
Regeneration: The Creation of a New Man
One of the most vital aspects of the Christian religion that sets it apart from all the other religions of the world is the doctrine of regeneration, i.e., the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit of God in salvation whereby the sinner's heart is renewed and transformed, being raised from a state of spiritual blindness and death to that of spiritual sight and life. Many imagine that becoming a Christian is similar to that of becoming a Buddhist or a Hindu or some other religion. Becoming "religious" is simply looking at all the various religions and deciding which one meets our approval according to our individual preference. They all "believe in god" so we can just pick the one that best fits our own self determined "spiritual" needs. There are many, even in the professing Church, that seem to de-emphasize this supernatural aspect of conversion thinking as though it were nothing more than a personal decision one makes in their own power "accepting Jesus Christ into one's heart as personal Savior" (a phrase found nowhere in Scripture). However, without this supernatural work of God in regeneration, Christianity, in essence, collapses into nothing more than a philosophical belief system based on the rudimentary principles of a sinful, fallen and man centered world, heaped on the dunghill of manmade religion. As Richard Baxter stated it, "To be the people of God without regeneration is as impossible as to be the children of men without generation." 1
It is written in Jer. 13:23, "Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Then may you also do good who are accustomed to do evil." According to Scripture, all men in their natural state, born of the flesh, of the seed of Adam, have an innate propensity to sin and are accustomed to do evil. "The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God (Rom. 8:7-8) (emphasis mine). All those outside of Christ are in the flesh and therefore it is not possible for such to please God. God is Spirit and He must be worshipped and served in the spirit (Jn. 4:24). In our natural state, we are no more capable of doing what God requires of us than the Ethiopian is of changing the color of his skin or a leopard its spots. We therefore find ourselves in a dreadful predicament if left to ourselves. For God, throughout Scripture, does indeed require that we live righteously before Him, that we be accustomed to do good, saying in essence—we must change our skin color or we die:
Whoever is steadfast in righteousness will live, but he who pursues evil will die (Prov. 11:19)
For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die... (Rom. 8:13)
For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the ungodly shall perish. (Psalm 1:6).
All the sinners of My people shall die by the sword (Amos 9:10).
'Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways,' says the Lord God. 'Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel?' (Ezek 18:30-32)(All italics mine)
Notice that in each of the forgoing passages it is not enough that those mentioned would merely have their sins forgiven but they mustbe steadfast in righteousness or they perish. They must turn from all their transgressions or die.
We often hear that since we have Christ's righteousness imputed to us in our justification, when we stand before God in judgment our deeds will be irrelevant to our acceptance with God. The deeds we practice in daily living are only relevant to our rewards in heaven and not heaven itself. However, these statements contradict numerous passages in Scripture and particularly those pertaining to God's judgment. Peter says in Acts 10:34, 35, "In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him" (italics mine). It would seem clear, to the unbiased mind, that this teaches that God only accepts those who fear Him and do the works of righteousness while rejecting those who do otherwise. We are not dealing here with the issue of whether or not the works of righteousness are meritorious, but whether or not they are essential to a man's acceptance with God, regardless of the source or means by which they are attained. Jesus said in John 5:24,
Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment [i.e., will not be condemned], but has passed from death into life.
Four verses later He says in John 5:28, 29,
Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation (emphasis added) .
Again, it should be clear to anyone with ears to hear that according to Christ those who believe in Him for everlasting life are one and the same as those who have done good, as opposed to those who do not believe in Him and therefore do evil. In other words, those who believe in Him, fear Him and do the works of righteousness, and are therefore accepted by Him. All who do otherwise will not be accepted by Him and they will perish. Matthew Henry writes of this passage,
Whatever name men are called by, or whatever plausible profession they make, it will be well in the great day with those only that have done good, have done that which is pleasing to God and profitable to others. The resurrection of the body will be a resurrection of life to all those, and those only, that have been sincere and constant in doing good2 (italics added).
While in this day we are inordinately fixated upon equating "works" with salvation, in the fear that one might err concerning the doctrine of justification by faith, Jesus seems to have little concern that His hearers might easily misinterpret His words as though teaching that one can earn salvation by their obedience. Notably, the early Church fathers spoke in a similar fashion and are therefore often accused of being legalistic. However, Scripture often speaks in this way, exemplified in every passage that references judgment, as is the case above, without exception. We read in Eccl. 12:13-14.
The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.
For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds (Matt. 16:27)
But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each person according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God (Rom. 2:5-11).
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad (2 Cor. 5:10) (All italics mine).
When Christ speaks of separating the sheep from the goats in Matt 25:32-46, it is based on their deeds, what they had done whether good or bad:
All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.' Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You. When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.' Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.' Then they themselves also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?' Then He will answer them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life (italics mine).
Here, the "good" or "righteous," defined by good works done in service to Christ, receive eternal life while the "bad," defined by deeds that are self-serving and callous toward the people of God, receive eternal punishment. When He says, "you did it to one of these brothers of Mine" He is not speaking of mankind in general but of those who believe in Him. He tells us in Luke 8:21 who His brothers are, "My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it." Again, we observe that only those characterized by obedience to the will of God are claimed by Christ as brothers. The sheep and goats then, are a depiction of saints and sinners, the righteous and unrighteous, the faithful and unfaithful, coexisting within a community of professing believers. The same truth is stated in the parable of the tares,
The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear! (Matt. 13:41).
Here, those who practice righteousness will remain in the Kingdom of God and those who do not will be cast out. Their status is based entirely on their behavior whether it be good or bad. In the parable of the net we read,
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace. (ESV)(Matt 13:49-50) (italics mine).
Again, their status is based entirely on their behavior whether it is good or bad; evil or righteous. In Rev 20:12-15 we read,
And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last. Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.
And in Rev. 21:8,
But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. (see also 1 Cor. 6:9-10, Gal. 5:19-21)
In Rev 20:11-13 it says,
Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds.
Here the books are opened and all men are judged according to the deeds written therein, whether they are good or bad. Albert Barnes writes,
Kings had their chronicles written (Est. 6:1) wherein people's good or ill deeds toward them were recorded. But the image is one of the oldest in Scripture, and in the self-same words (Ex 17:14), 'the Lord said to Moses, Write this, a memorial in a book'.…Both expressions are used, only to picture vividly to our minds, that our deeds are present with God, for good or for evil; and in the Day of Judgment He will make them manifest to men and angels, as though read out of a book, and will requite them. So Daniel had said (Dan 7:10), 'the judgment was set, and the books were opened.' And John says (Rev 20:12), 'The books were opened, and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.'3
John Gill, in reference to the expression "every man according to his deeds" writes,
God will be the Judge, who is righteous, holy, just, and true; every man in particular will be judged; as the judgment will be general to all, it will be special to everyone, and will proceed according to their works; for God will render to wicked men according to the demerit of their sins, the just recompense of reward, eternal damnation; and to good men eternal life, not according to the merit of their good works, which have none in them, but according to the nature of them; such who believe in Christ, and perform good works from a principle of grace, shall receive the reward of the inheritance, which is a reward of grace, and not of debt. In other words, God will render to evil men according to the true desert of their evil deeds; and of his own free grace will render to good men, whom he has made so by his grace, what is suitable and agreeable to those good works, which, by the assistance of his grace, they have been enabled to perform. 4
Jesus says in Matthew 12:36, 37,
But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.
Words reveal the spiritual condition of the heart. A righteous heart speaks good things; an unrighteous heart speaks corrupt things (Luke 6:47). According to this verse, a person will be justified or condemned based on whether or not their hearts are good or bad. The good heart is the heart described in the parable of the four soils, "the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience (Luke 8:5) (see Chapter 9). Again, in Matthew 7:22-24 it says,
Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!' (italics mine)
Sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4). Therefore, those who practice sin, as contrasted with those who do the will of God, will be condemned. David says in Psalm 15:1-3,
LORD, who may abide in Your tabernacle?
Who may dwell in Your holy hill?
He who walks uprightly,
And works righteousness,
And speaks the truth in his heart;
He who does not backbite with his tongue,
Nor does evil to his neighbor
Nor does he take up a reproach against his friend. (Italics mine)
Only those who walk uprightly and work righteousness are fit to abide in his Church and dwell in the heavenly presence of God which again lines up with what we read in Acts 10:35, whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.
So then, in light of the numerous passages throughout Scripture, it is unmistakably evident that living righteously before God is an essential aspect of our salvation. The reader can plainly see for his or her self that in these judgment passages God will evaluate the reality of our faith based on whether or not the deeds we have done are good or bad—righteous or unrighteous.
This brings us back to our dilemma. Man in his natural state is accustomed to do evil and yet is required to live righteously before God or perish, and yet to do so is likened to a leopard changing his spots. Many try to cover the spots with good deeds or wash them off by the "works of the law." This is legalism. "'For though you wash yourself with lye, and use much soap, yet your iniquity is marked before Me,' says the Lord GOD" (Jer. 2:22). Others think that God will simply turn a blind eye to the spots, looking only at the spotlessness of Christ, as they continue in their sin. This is antinomianism. However, it is all to no avail. The leopard must change his spots and the Ethiopian his skin color, and this can only be accomplished by the intervention of a supernatural act of God Himself. To live righteously before God the natural man must become a spiritual man. He must be born again; Regenerated by the Spirit of God. Jesus says to Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, in John 3,
Most assuredly, 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 the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.
In verse 9, Nicodemus answered and said to Him,
How can these things be? Jesus answered and said to him, 'Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?'
Many think of being "born again" as a doctrine that is unique to the New Testament, however, Jesus rebukes Nicodemus for his ignorance of this Old Testament teaching. God says to backslidden Israel, "get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit" (Ezek. 18:31) and to "circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiff-necked" (Deut. 10:16). God commands them to do that which is beyond their own ability to achieve. To get a new heart and a new spirit one must become a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17, Gal. 6:15), created in Christ Jesus for good works (Eph. 2:10). It is not to simply reform one's behavior by keeping external laws that were previously disobeyed, but rather there must be an inward transformation and change of character, whereas the law becomes internal. Jesus said to the Pharisees, "Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish (the heart), that the outside of them may be clean also" (the behavior) (Matt. 23:26). We must have a new divine principle within us that governs our thoughts and actions that they might be turned in a new direction, a principle that inclines us toward righteousness and away from sin. We must be born again.
So then, the solution to our predicament can only be found in God Himself, in that which He graciously and supernaturally performs and accomplishes on our behalf. He says in Ezekiel 36:25-27,
Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. (italics mine)
And in Deuteronomy 30:6,
And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. (italics mine)
These are among the most exceptional promises in all of Scripture. It is the promise of a glorious and magnificent grace available to all that desire to be in a right relationship with their Creator. No matter how abominable, despicable, wicked, or filthy men may be, God freely offers them pardon and reconciliation. God says in essence, that all the necessary requirements needed for your salvation; a cleansing from all your sin so that your debt to Me is no longer charged to your account and the righteousness that must be practiced in your daily walk, I Myself will accomplish in you that you may live. He says,
I will sprinkle clean water on you;
I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols;
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you;
I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh;
I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes
I will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.
We understand then that everything that is required in our salvation is not of ourselves, not of our own merit or achievement, but rather it is entirely a gift from God (Eph. 2:8). It is a comprehensive gift; "But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption— that, as it is written, 'He who glories, let him glory in the LORD'" (1 Cor. 1:30, 31).
We read in Luke 10:25-28,
And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, 'Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?' He said to him, 'What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?' So he answered and said, 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,' and 'your neighbor as yourself.' And He said to him, 'You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.'
Here again, Jesus seems to have little concern that His hearers might easily misinterpret His words as legalistic. He says, "You have answered rightly; do this and you will live." Do what? Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. When we compare Jesus' statement with Deuteronomy 30:6 we find the same sentiment, however, in that passage the fulfillment of the words of Christ are accomplished as a direct result of God's own actions. "I will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live." (emphasis added). The antithesis of this statement would be that if God does not circumcise the heart to love the Lord with all your heart you will die. Is not every Christian circumcised in heart (Rom. 2:28-29) and is it not required that we love Christ with all our heart, and soul according to the Lord Himself in Matthew 10:37-39; more than all other relationships, more than our own life, if we would be His followers; "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me, etc.,. Did Jesus not also say, "He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me" (Jn. 14:21). In other words, the promise of Deut. 30:6 is fulfilled in every Christian by this gracious act of God in regeneration which results in loving the Lord with all the heart and with all the soul that they may live, i.e., that they might inherit eternal life. So the question then is not "must we do this to live?" but rather "how do I do this that I might live." In a parallel passage in Mark 12:34 Jesus said that the scribe answered wisely and responded with, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." The scribe was not far from the kingdom in that he had a proper understanding of that which was required of him but was not recognizing, at least at this point, the one thing necessary in order to obtain it, namely, regeneration. He was of that sect of Jews seeking to establish their own righteousness according to the flesh and had not yet submitted to the righteousness of God through faith. He was yet carnal and therefore inadequately suited for obedience to a spiritual law. Only in repentance could he receive a "new heart" and a "new spirit" that God might work in Him the will and ability to fulfill the spiritual law of Christ (Phil. 2:13), and thus the capacity to carry out the words of Christ, "do this and you will live." Matthew Henry comments,
When Christ said, this do, and thou shalt live, he began to be aware that Christ intended to draw from him an acknowledgment that he had not done this, and therefore an enquiry what he should do, which way he should look, to get his sins pardoned; an acknowledgment also that he could not do this perfectly for the future by any strength of his own, and therefore an enquiry which way he might fetch in strength to enable him to do it.5
So then, when Jesus says to the scribe, "Do this and live," He is stating no less a truth that must be a reality in the life of the scribe, as God's command to Israel, "get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit," would have to become a reality in their lives if either were to gain eternal life. God was telling Israel, even as Jesus the scribe, to do something they could not do in their own power, yet it was, nonetheless, absolutely essential that they would do so or perish. The proper response of the scribe would be to recognize that he had not done what was required of him and such a conviction would naturally lead to repentance resulting in justification, and thus the reception of all the several aspects of grace in salvation—redemption, sanctification, and the indwelling and enabling power of the Holy Spirit of God, receiving the circumcision made without hands and thus acquiring the will and ability "That the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit" (Rom. 8:4). What is the righteous requirement of the law? Loving God with all our heart and our neighbor as ourselves. The IVP Bible Background Commentary says, "Paul's point here is that whether the law brings life or death depends on whether it is written in one's heart by the Spirit (Ezek 36:27) or practiced as an external standard of righteousness, which is unattainable by human effort (cf. 3:27; 9:31-32; 10:6-8). 6
Some take Romans 8:4 to mean, "that the justifying righteousness of the law might be imputed to us." The JFB Commentary responds by saying,
Is it not unnatural to suppose that the apostle is still dwelling on justification, of which he had already treated so largely? And what is it that this verse conveys which had not been over and over again expressed, and, according to their own interpretation, once or twice said even in the preceding verses? Nor is it a wholesome thing, as we think, to be so very jealous of any expression that sounds like an assertion that Believers fulfill the requirements of the law. For, do they not do so? And is it not the express object of Rom 6, in the first part of it, to show that they do, and in the second to bid believers accordingly see that they do? That their obedience is not perfect is no more a truth than that it is a real and acceptable obedience through Christ. 7
Adam Clarke writes,
That the guilt might be pardoned through the merit of that sacrifice; and that we might be enabled, by the power of his own grace and Spirit, to walk in newness of life; loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and our neighbour as ourselves: and thus, the righteousness, the spirit, design, and purpose of the law is fulfilled in us, through the strength of the Spirit of Christ, which is here put in opposition to the weakness of the law through the flesh. 8
Jonathan Edwards states,
In efficacious grace we are not merely passive, nor yet does God do some, and we do the rest. But God does all, and we do all. God produces all, and we act all. For that is what he produces, viz. our own acts. God is the only proper author and fountain; we only are the proper actors. We are, in different respects, wholly passive and wholly active…In the Scriptures the same things are represented as from God and from us. God is said to convert, and men are said to convert and turn. God makes a new heart, and we are commanded to make us a new heart. God circumcises the heart, and we are commanded to circumcise our own hearts; not merely because we must use the means in order to the effect, but the effect itself is our act and our duty. These things are agreeable to that text, 'God worketh in you both to will and to do.'9
We often hear, even from good and sincere men, that it is impossible, even on our best day, to love the Lord with all our heart. In this sense the phrase is thought to express a love that exhibits nothing less than that of a perfect obedience in thought, word, and deed. If this was its meaning they would be perfectly just in what they say. However, when we look to Scripture we find that the term is used in a different sense. God says of David, "My servant David, who kept My commandments and who followed Me with all his heart, to do only what was right in My eyes" (1 Kings 14:7, 8). Or King Josiah,"there was no king like him, who turned to the LORD with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses; nor after him did any arise like him" (2 Kings 23:24-26). It says of Hezekiah that He "did what was good and right and true before the LORD his God. And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, in the law and in the commandment, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart" (2 Chr. 31:20, 21) (all italics added). We see then that faithful men are capable of loving the Lord with all their heart in the true Biblical sense of the term. It is not speaking of perfection, but of a single-minded devotedness and an unwavering commitment to God. Having no other God besides Him; no other idols, persons, things, lusts, etc. that come before our faithfulness to Him. It does not speak of a perfect obedience but of that which is characteristic. Therefore, it is stated that God is merciful with "those who love Him and keep His commandments" (Deut. 7:9). In other words, "those who love Him and keep His commandments" still require the mercies of God for their obedience is not without failings. John Gill writes,
To love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul; which, though the duty of every man, is performed by none but those that have the grace of God; there is no love to God in the heart before this inward and spiritual circumcision of it: it is a fruit of the Spirit in conversion when the affections are taken off of other things, and set on Christ; when a man sees his sin and his Saviour, and the one is odious, and the other precious; when the blessings of grace are applied, and the love of God is shed abroad in the heart, which cause love to God and Christ again…that thou mayest live; spiritually and eternally; for there is no spiritual life in the soul till the heart is circumcised, or, in other words, regenerated and renewed; then it is quickened; then a man lives a life of faith on Christ, of holiness from him, communion with him, and has both an open right unto, and meetness for, eternal life. 10
Adam Clarke comments,
But what is implied in loving God with all the heart, soul, mind, strength, etc., and when may a man be said to do this?
1. He loves God with all his heart, who loves nothing in comparison of him, and nothing but in reference to him: - who is ready to give up, do, or suffer any thing in order to please and glorify him: - who has in his heart neither love nor hatred, hope nor fear, inclination, nor aversion, desire, nor delight, but as they relate to God, and are regulated by him.
2. He loves God with all his soul, or rather, εν ολη τη ψυχη, with all his life, who is ready to give up life for his sake - to endure all sorts of torments, and to be deprived of all kinds of comforts, rather than dishonor God: - who employs life with all its comforts, and conveniences, to glorify God in, by, and through all: - to whom life and death are nothing, but as they come from and lead to God. From this Divine principle sprang the blood of the martyrs, which became the seed of the Church. They overcame through the blood of the Lamb, and loved not their lives unto the death. See Revelation 12:11.
3. He loves God with all his strength (Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27) who exerts all the powers of his body and soul in the service of God: - who, for the glory of his Maker, spares neither labor nor cost - who sacrifices his time, body, health, ease, for the honor of God his Divine Master: - who employs in his service all his goods, his talents, his power, credit, authority, and influence.
4. He loves God with all his mind (intellect - διανοια) who applies himself only to know God, and his holy will: - who receives with submission, gratitude, and pleasure, the sacred truths which God has revealed to man: - who studies no art nor science but as far as it is necessary for the service of God, and uses it at all times to promote his glory - who forms no projects nor designs but in reference to God and the interests of mankind: - who banishes from his understanding and memory every useless, foolish, and dangerous thought, together with every idea which has any tendency to defile his soul, or turn it for a moment from the center of eternal repose. In a word, he who sees God in all things - thinks of him at all times - having his mind continually fixed upon God, acknowledging him in all his ways - who begins, continues, and ends all his thoughts, words, and works, to the glory of his name: - this is the person who loves God with all his heart, life, strength, and intellect. He is crucified to the world, and the world to him: he lives, yet not he, but Christ lives in him. He beholds as in a glass the glory of the Lord, and is changed into the same image from glory to glory. Simply and constantly looking unto Jesus, the author and perfecter of his faith, he receives continual supplies of enlightening and sanctifying grace, and is thus fitted for every good word and work. 11
We must first be justified by the righteousness of Christ, forgiven and cleansed by His shed blood, whereby we are made a suitable dwelling place, a holy temple, fit for the reception of the Spirit of Christ, that He might work in us the will to do His good pleasure, conforming us to the likeness and character of Himself. By the power of His regenerating grace He can, and does, take those "accustomed to do evil" and makes them accustomed to do righteousness. As Jesus said in Matthew 12:33 "Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit." Even so, the regenerate and unregenerate are known by their deeds, whether good or bad, and will be judged accordingly.
Elwell's Theological Dictionary states,
Regeneration in Christ changes the disposition from lawless, Godless self-seeking (Rom. 3:9-18; Rom. 8:7) which dominates man in Adam into one of trust and love, of repentance for past rebelliousness and unbelief, and loving compliance with God's law henceforth. It enlightens the blinded mind to discern spiritual realities (1 Cor. 2:14-15; 2 Cor. 4:6; Col. 3:10), and liberates and energizes the enslaved will for free obedience to God (Rom. 6:14, Rom. 6:17-22; Phil. 2:13).
The use of the figure of new birth to describe this change emphasizes two facts about it. The first is its decisiveness. The regenerate man has forever ceased to be the man he was; his old life is over and a new life has begun; he is a new creature in Christ, buried with him out of reach of condemnation and raised with him into a new life of righteousness (see Rom. 6:3-11; 2 Cor. 5:17; Col. 3:9-11). The second fact emphasized is the monergism of regeneration. Infants do not induce, or cooperate in, their own procreation and birth; no more can those who are 'dead in trespasses and sins' prompt the quickening operation of God's Spirit within them (see Eph. 2:1-10). Spiritual vivification is a free, and to man mysterious, exercise of divine power (John 3:8), not explicable in terms of the combination or cultivation of existing human resources (John 3:6), not caused or induced by any human efforts (John 1:12-13) or merits (Titus 3:3-7), and not, therefore, to be equated with, or attributed to, any of the experiences, decisions, and acts to which it gives rise and by which it may be known to have taken place...The verb gennao (which means both 'beget' and 'bear') is used in these passages in the aorist or perfect tense to denote the once-for-all divine work whereby the sinner, who before was only 'flesh,' and as such, whether he knew it or not, utterly incompetent in spiritual matters (John 3:3-7), is made 'spirit' (John 3:6), i.e., is enabled and caused to receive and respond to the saving revelation of God in Christ. In the Gospel, Christ assures Nicodemus that there are no spiritual activities, no seeing or entering God's kingdom, because there is no faith in himself, without regeneration (John 3:1ff.); and John declares in the prologue that only the regenerate receive Christ and enter into the privileges of God's children (John 1:12-13). Conversely, in the Epistle John insists that there is no regeneration that does not issue in spiritual activities. The regenerate do righteousness (1 John 2:29) and do not live a life of sin (1 John 3:9; 1 John 5:18: the present tense indicates habitual law-keeping, not absolute sinlessness, cf. 1 John 1:8-10); they love Christians (1 John 4:7), believe rightly in Christ, and experience faith's victory over the world (1 John 5:4). Any who do otherwise, whatever they claim, are still unregenerate children of the devil. 12
We often hear it said that we are all God's children. However, this is contrary to Scripture. It is written in John 1:11-13 "As many as received Him [Christ], to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name." We see then that only those who are born of God are said to be the children of God. It says in 1 John 3:10, "In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother." Here again Scripture makes it clear that the result of regeneration is a real, practical, personal righteousness carried out by the recipient. All others, without exception, are not simply poor Christians, but children of the devil. 1 John 3:1 says, "Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him." Albert Barnes writes,
The world does not understand our principles; the reasons of our conduct; the sources of our comforts and joys. The people of the world regard us as fanatics or enthusiasts; as foolish in abandoning the pleasures and pursuits which they engage in; as renouncing certain happiness for that which is uncertain; as cherishing false and delusive hopes in regard to the future, and as practicing needless austerities, with nothing to compensate for the pleasures which are abandoned. There is nothing which the frivolous, the ambitious, and the selfish 'less' understand than they do the elements which go into the Christian's character, and the nature and source of the Christian's joys.13
Jesus says in John 17:14 that the children of God are not of this world. "I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world." To be of this world is to be in allegiance with Satan, the god of this age, 2 Corinthians 4:4, who has blinded the minds of those who do not believe. Therefore, the unbeliever cannot see the kingdom. For eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him (1 Cor. 2:9). Many have interpreted this passage as something to be revealed to us in the future, but the following verse explains that it is speaking of something present; But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit (1 Cor. 2:10). In order that we might believe, we must first have our eyes, ears, and hearts opened to the gospel of the glory of Christ and His kingdom. Flesh and blood cannot receive the things of the Spirit, for they are foolishness to the natural man (1 Cor. 2:14). Flesh cannot see the unseen and therefore remains blind to the kingdom. So then we must be born of the Spirit, and with the eyes of the spirit, we can then see or perceive the reality of the kingdom (John 3:3). Vincent's Word Studies states, "The things of God's kingdom are not apparent to the natural vision. A new power of sight is required, which attaches only to the new man."14 For however dim this sight may be (1 Cor. 13:12), it envisions the kingdom, being fully convinced of its reality (Rom. 4:22).
Since we are spiritually deaf, we cannot hear the words of the kingdom. Jesus said, "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life" (John 6:63). The Spirit then must grant us spiritual hearing in order that we might hear those words that are spirit (John 5:24)—hence, Jesus' frequent use of the term "he who has ears let him hear." Our stony hardened hearts must betaken out and our spirit made receptive to the words of the Spirit of God that we might believe in our hearts that God has raised Him from the dead (Rom. 10:9).
Christ gave us the evidence of His heavenly authority on earth by the miracles he performed. He raised the dead, caused the blind to see, made the deaf to hear, healed the sick, and enabled the lame to walk. In regeneration, God by His Spirit, through the risen Christ, performs these same miracles today. When Christ was on the earth it was physical and visible, now seated at God's right hand it is spiritual and invisible. Again, The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit (John 3:8). We, in our unregenerate state, are blind and deaf as to our perception of spiritual truths and lame in that we are unable to walk with God. We are dead in our trespasses and sin (Ephesians 2:5). Through Christ, God raises us from spiritual death, giving sight to our blind eyes that we might see the kingdom; hearing to our deaf ears that we might hear the words of the kingdom; healing the disease of sin by cleansing and forgiveness that we might enter the kingdom; heals our lame limbs that we might walk in the way of the kingdom; a way which is pleasing to God. So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but God who shows mercy (Rom. 9:16).
So then, even as Satan is allowed to take those in opposition to the truth captive by him to do his will (2 Tim. 2:26), those whom the Son sets free are taken captive by Christ to do God's will. Therefore, it is said that only those who do the will of the Father will enter the kingdom of God (Matt. 7:21, 1 John 2:17). With the new birth comes a new heart and the first evidence of this new heart is manifest in that it obeys the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. It reveals itself in that it submits to the words of Christ, which is the first-fruits of a lifelong submission to the lordship of Christ. We do not then pick and choose the words we believe, but we submit to the whole counsel of God. God's Word then becomes that which sustains and upholds the believer that he might endure to the end. Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4).
We find then that Satan rules in the heart of the unregenerate sinner, the old man; Christ rules in the heart of the saint, the new man. For sin shall not have dominion (or rule) over you for you are not under law but under grace (Rom. 6:14). ...You are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of Christ dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His (Rom. 8:9).
The unregenerate man's will is enslaved to sin, however, once regenerated it is enslaved to righteousness (Rom. 6:6-18). In our fallen state in Adam our hearts, being desperately wicked, (Jer. 17:9), produced in us the governing principle of "my will be done." No matter the effort on our part, in Adam, it is impossible to do God's will because the stony heart of the old man seeks after its own way. The old man must be crucified and a new man resurrected. As J. R. W. Stott puts it, "what was crucified with Christ was not a part of me called my old nature, but the whole of me as I was before I was converted." 15
In contrast to this view, we have the two-nature theory popularized by men such as Lewis Sperry Chafer, C. I. Scofield, and many in Dispensational circles, which hold to the error of a non-lordship theology (see Chapter 3). Curtis I. Crenshaw explains as follows:
The license view (or Keswick view) says that the person has something new added to him, a new nature. The 'I' remains unchanged. The believer has the Spirit 'provided,' and he may or may not give grace to the Christian, depending on whether the believer fulfills some command. The 'I' may function by either nature at any given moment. If the 'I' decides to 'yield' to the Spirit, then the Spirit flows 'through' him, living the life of Christ through the Christian. In other words, one must do good to become good, rather than the biblical teaching that one must first become good to do good works. The view that our choices make us what we are rather than reflect what we are is Pelagianism. Substitutionary sanctification is not biblical, for the 'I' is never changed, but must get out of the way so the Spirit can work 'through' the new nature, and as water flows through a tube leaving it unchanged, so allegedly the Spirit flows through the new nature, leaving the believer unchanged. Exactly what is being conformed to the image of Christ is never clear, For the 'I' remains unchanged. Remember, according to this view, the new nature cannot be lessened and the old nature cannot be improved. As Warfield so accurately stated of this, when the person is glorified at glorification, the old self is not the one saved, cleaned up, and purified but a new self added that never needed saving at all...if the person functions through the new nature, the works are perfect, if through the old nature, the works are wholly evil. By contrast reformed theologian John Gerstner says: 'For the reformed theologian, good works, while the result of divine grace, are genuinely human actions. For the antinomian, good works are divine actions, the direct action of God within the human Spirit' ...There are allegedly two kinds of faith, a faith without works and a faith with works. This leads to a new birth that only inserts something new, which in turn gives rise to two kinds of Christians: the spiritual and the carnal. Then there are two spheres of salvation: the position and the practice. In 'salvation' we can have justification without sanctification. In heaven there are two kinds of Christians: those with rewards and those without them. In each case we have two spheres, functioning like parallel railroad tracks, neither sphere influencing the other. In the reformed view, the heavenly is effectual regarding the earthly: the Christian not only has life given to him, but the disposition of the soul has a new orientation—obedience to God. The 'I' is indeed changed but he has only one nature—humanity. He has been regenerated, and this regeneration is continued in progressive sanctification...Since the 'I' is being changed, there is no substitutionary sanctification. The 'I' does not remove itself, for he is being sanctified, and the 'I' is producing the good works that are the fruit of grace, which good works are not perfect but are accepted for Christ's sake. His faith joins him to Christ, from Whom he receives both justification and sanctification. In union with Christ, how could he possibly receive one without the other? There is no formula to obey to receive power, for the Holy Spirit is always sanctifying the believer and the saint cannot stop His work in himself. Justification necessarily brings about sanctification as the heavenly necessarily affects the earthly16 (Italics added).
Scripture tells us that in regeneration the Christian enters into an entirely new reality and sphere of being. The following verses use language that is in the past tense:
- we are no longer unregenerate (Titus 3:5);
- we are no longer dead (Eph. 2:1, 5);
- we are no longer natural men (1 Cor. 2:14);
- we are no longer separated from God (2 Cor. 5:18);
- we are no longer in Adam (1 Cor. 15:22);
- we are no longer under the law (Rom. 6:14);
- we no longer walk in the "oldness of the letter" (Rom. 7:6);
- we are no longer enemies of God (Rom. 5:10, 8:7);
- we are no longer blind (Acts 26:18);
- we no longer "walk in darkness" (John 8:12);
- we are no longer "in the flesh" (Rom. 8:9);
- we no longer "sow to the flesh" (Gal. 6:8).
- we no longer "walk according to the flesh" (Rom. 8:13).
- we no longer "conduct ourselves in the lusts of our flesh" (Eph. 2:3);
- we no longer practice the works of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21);
- we are no longer led by the flesh (Rom. 8:14);
- we are no longer "carnally minded" (mind set) (Rom. 8:6);
- we no longer "walk according to the course of this world" (Eph. 2:2);
- we no longer love this present world (1 John 2:15);
- we are no longer "children of wrath" (Eph. 2:3);
- we are no longer "children of disobedience" (Eph. 2:2);
- we are no longer "slaves of sin" (Rom. 6:17, 18);
- we no longer practice lawlessness and sin (1 John 3:4-10);
- we are no longer the old man, but a new man (2 Cor. 5:17, Col. 3:9, 10).
"...knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin" (Rom 6:6).
Scripture does not say that the old man is in the process of being crucified, but "was crucified"—past tense. The one who's occupation it was to serve the flesh in its various lusts and pleasures is dead (Titus 3:3-5), being crucified with Christ. The fact that the "old man" is crucified does not mean that we no longer struggle with sin. It is, in actuality, when the war with sin begins. The "old man" was a slave to sin. The slave is faithful in submitting to his master's requests. Or,
Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slave whom you obey. Whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness (Rom. 6:16).
We are either slaves of sin which leads to death, or the slave of sin dies (the old man) and we become slaves of obedience (the new man) leading to righteousness and life. The war against sin begins when we are "set free" from the bondage of the rule of sin. A man in the flesh, under the dominion of sin, has no power or love of virtue that he might resist it, and therefore needs a law to restrain him and keep him from impetuously indulging in its lusts. However, the Christian wars against sin, "For sin shall not have dominion (exercise lordship) over you..." This new rule is the Divine seed that germinates a love for righteousness. The believer is now ashamed of that which he once was—that which belonged to the sphere of the "old man" (Rom. 6:21). The new man is crying out, "As a deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O' God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God" (Ps. 42:2). The old man was darkness, but now as believers we are no longer darkness (Eph. 5:8) yet we must cast off the "works" of darkness (Rom. 13:12) which is made possible as we "walk in the light" (Eph. 5:13) i.e., in the Spirit. We are no longer the "old man," yet we must cast off and put to death the "deeds of the body," that which characterized the "old man." "For if you live according to the flesh (that which is accustomed to do evil) you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live" (Rom. 8:13) (words in parenthesis added). Again, it should be apparent to the reader that this verse is referring to eternal death, since all men will die physically irrespective of the way in which they live.
So then, the distinction now between the "old man," and the "new man," is that which rules the heart. The one is governed under the lordship of sin (old man); the other is governed under the lordship of Christ (new man). Indwelling sin is not crucified, for it remains in the believer as long as he lives in the earthly body. However, the new man no longer occupies himself with the serving of it as his master. Scripture states that those who are Christ's have "crucified the flesh with its passions and desires" (Gal. 5:24). The flesh as it lived according to, and was ruled by, its sinful passions and desires has been put to death in Christ.
Again, God says, "I will give you a new heart [a heart for God by faith] and put a new spirit within you [made alive unto God], I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh [the hardened heart of the old man] and give you a heart of flesh [the heart made willing]. I will put My Spirit within you [the Holy Spirit] and cause you to walk in My statutes [Phil. 2:13] and you will keep My judgments and do them" [1 John 3:9] (text in brackets are added). The New Testament describes this "new man" in various ways:
- He is a new creation (1 Cor. 5:17, Gal. 6:15)
- He has the law written in his heart (Heb 8:10).
- He is a partaker of the Divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4)
- He has Christ formed in him (Gal. 4:19).
- He has the Spirit of Christ dwelling in him(Rom. 8:9).
- He is the temple of God (1 Cor. 3:16).
- He has God's seed in him (1 John 3:9).
- He is born with an "incorruptible seed" (1 Pet. 1:23).
- He has God at work in him both to will and to do for His good pleasure (Phil. 2:13).
- He has received a circumcision made without hands (Col. 2:11).
- He practices righteousness (1 John 2:29).
- He cannot practice sin (1 John 3:9).
- He loves Christ and those born of Him (1 John 5:1).
- He overcomes the world (1 John 5:4).
- He keeps himself from sin (1 John 5:18)
This is the consequence of the mysterious and miracle-working power of God carried out in every beneficiary of God's grace. William Greenhill writes in his exposition of Ezekiel,
God's Spirit will so alter our spirits, so transform, and renew them, that they shall be inclined to, and carried on in, the obeying of divine statutes. Before, they went on in the ways of sin, with strength, constancy, and delight; now they move with new strength, constancy, and delight in that which is good. This 'new spirit' bows the will to the law of righteousness, so that it obeys and commands well.17
This 'new spirit' is a great mercy, it is a renewal of the image of God in a man, knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, Col. 3:10; Eph. 4:24. It is that which makes a man good, and acceptable to God; it was the Holy Ghost and faith that made Barnabas 'a good man,' Acts 11:24. Till a man have some new qualities in him, this 'new spirit,' he is flesh, displeasing unto God; John 3:6... 'that which is born of the Spirit is spirit,' and so acceptable to God; then the tree is good, and the fruit good also, Matt. 7:17, 18. It is that which weakens and wastes sin in us; 2 Cor. 5:17, 'If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things have passed away;' old customs, practices, principles, corruptions, they are decaying, the old leaven is purging out. It is the argument of God's love in the covenant of grace towards a sinner and evidence that thou art in that covenant, to give this 'new spirit:' it is that which makes us honourable and glorious...It is a choice comfort to the man that hath it, more than thousands of silver and gold, more than a world to him; no such comfort to him as this. It is life; Luke 15:24, 'This my son was dead, and is alive again.' The dead prodigal, when he had this 'new spirit,' had a new life, and this was a sweet, a great comfort to him, to his father, to others. It gives you title to the kingdom of heaven.18
Albert Barnes sums it up well,
The new man refers to the renovated nature. This is called in other places, the 'new creature, or the new creation,' and refers to the condition after the heart is changed. The change is so great, that there is no impropriety in speaking of one who has experienced it as 'a new man.' He has new feelings, principles, and desires. He has laid aside his old principles and practices, and, in everything that pertains to moral character, he is new. His body is indeed the same; the intellectual structure of his mind the same; but there has been a change in his principles and feelings which make him, in all the great purposes of life, a new being. Learn, that regeneration is not a trifling change. It is not a mere change of relations, or of the outward condition. It is not merely being brought from the world into the church, and being baptized, though by the most holy hands; it is much more. None of these things would make proper the declaration, 'he is a new man.' Regeneration by the Spirit of God does. 19
A essential feature in this change is, a readiness to forsake all sin, and all pursuits that are inconsistent with a holy life. This enters of course into the change, for it is a change from sin to holiness. The past life is now seen to have been unholy, and it becomes the purpose of the soul to abandon all that is offensive to God. And this love of sin, and of sinful pursuits, is not abandoned now merely because it is commanded to be; it is the preference of the heart to do it. The renewed heart renounces these things as a matter of course, and at any sacrifice….No proposition can be clearer than that a man who is not willing to forsake his sinful pursuits can have no evidence that he is born again….The same remarks are applicable to the world, to its pleasures, its gaieties, its vanities. In the case of a true convert to Christ, the theatre is forsaken, not because it is a matter of express injunction in the Bible, but because it ceases to interest the mind. The changed heart becomes interested in other things, and in the superior relish for the pleasures and hopes of religion: the pleasure once found in such amusements is extinguished of course. So to a mind truly converted and made to taste the happiness of communion with God, the pleasures of the ball-room and the brilliant party cease to allure and charm. To such a mind it is not mere command which requires the forsaking of 'the pride, pomp, and vanity of the world;' it is not mere conscience which keeps from an indulgence in such pleasures; it is not the mere apprehension that pain will be given to the friends of piety, and dishonour reflected on the church—though all of these things will influence the mind; it is, that the relish, the love for such things is lost. The heart has become attached to nobler and more elevated pursuits, and has learned to find pleasure in that which now satisfies the soul....The heart has become dead to such pleasures; and to mingle in them now with relish and satisfaction would be far more difficult than it would have been before to forsake them—nay, would be impossible….I need only advert to one other essential characteristic of this change: it is, that there is a readiness to devote all to God, and to do his will. The question asked by Paul at his conversion was, 'Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?' and the same question substantially is asked by every one who becomes a Christian.…It is the beginning of true religion in the soul. It leads to simple dependence on Christ for salvation. It is attended by a new interest in religion; a new pleasure in its services; a new relish for the Bible and for prayer; new love for Christians, new plans of life; as well as with a readiness to forsake all that God hates, and to devote the life to his service in any sphere to which, by his Spirit and his providence, he shall direct. 20
It is quite apparent that the character described as the "new man" in this chapter is relatively rare in the professing Church today. One of the primary reasons is that a large majority of churchgoers have been exposed to an onslaught of false teaching concerning the gospel of Jesus Christ. As a result the Spirit is quenched and the term "born again" is reduced to a mere profession of the lips rather than the profound, glorious life-changing power of God in salvation witnessed and experienced by every genuine believer in Christ.
It is a sad day when the gospel has been so perverted that many actually believe that any insistence on obedience is evil and "of the Devil" somehow diminishing the glory of God's grace, when in truth it is the entire purpose of God's grace (Titus 2:11-14). We find, throughout Scripture, that nothing on this earth dishonors God more than a sinful people called by His name. If according to the shorter catechism, man's chief end is to glorify God, then the chief end of the gospel is to produce a holy and righteous people. For we are told by His beloved Son Himself, "By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit" (John 15:8). Therefore, we find in the doctrine of regeneration, the Father taking the necessary means wherein His own glory is assured in that He takes a bad tree incapable of bearing good fruit (Luke 6:43), and transforms it into a good tree which inevitably bears fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life (Rom. 6:22).
1. Works of Richard Baxter: The Saints' Everlasting Rest, (Edinberg, 1759) p.45
2. Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible, Matthew Henry, John 5:17-30, (Hendrickson Publishers, 2005)
3. Barnes Notes on the Old and New Testaments, Albert Barnes, Malachi 3:16-18 (Baker Books, 1983)
4. An Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, John Gill, Romans 2:6 (Baptist Standard Bearer, 1989)
5. Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible, Luke 10:25-28, Matthew Henry (Hendrickson Publishers, 2005)
6. IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, Craig S. Keener, Romans 8:4 (InterVarsity Press, 1993)
7. Bible Commentary: A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments, David Brown, A. R. Fausset, A. R. Fausset, Romans 8:4 (Hendrickson Publishers, 1997)
8. Adam Clarke's Commentary on the Whole Bible, Adam Clarke, Romans 8:4 (Abingdon Press, 1966)
9. The Works of President Edwards in Eight Volumes, Jonathan Edwards (Worcester-Isaiah Thomas, 1808) Volume V., p. 473
10. An Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, John Gill, Deut. 30:6 (Baptist Standard Bearer, 1989)
11. Adam Clarke's Commentary on the Whole Bible, Adam Clarke, Matthew 22:37 (Abingdon Press, 1966)
12. Walter A. Elwell, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, (The New Bible Library: Ellis Enterprises)
13. Albert Barnes, Barnes' Notes, Baker Books (February 1, 1983) 1 John 3.
14. Marvin R. Vincent, D.D., Word Studies in the N.T. (Albany, N.Y.: Sage Digital Library, 1996)
15. The New International Commentary of the N.T., Douglas J. Moo (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), p.373
16. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Lordship Salvation: The Only Kind There Is, (Memphis, Tn.: Footstool Publications, 1994), p.43
17. An exposition of the prophet Ezekiel, William Greenhill, M.A., 1650, p.273 (Google Books)
18. An exposition of the prophet Ezekiel, William Greenhill, M.A., 1650, p.275 (Google Books)
19. Barnes Notes on the Old and New Testaments, Albert Barnes, Eph. 4:24; (Baker Books, 1983)
20. The Way Of Salvation, Albert Barnes; (Published by Paeey and M'millan, 1858) p. 267