How Does God Save People? Part 2

      In part 1 of “How Does God Save People” we explored the truths of the things which God did before time began in order to save people.  We spoke of foreknowledge, election, and predestination.  These are great truths that ensure that God will lose none of those He has chosen unto salvation.  We find great comfort in these truths, knowing that nothing is left to chance, and nothing is an “accident” in the life of God’s chosen; not only that, but no such thing as an “accident” really even exists, whatsoever.

Among those things that are not accidents is the conversion of God’s children.  The only reason any of us ever heard the Gospel is because God determined to send it.  The only reason any of us ever received the Gospel is because God determined to send the Spirit to quicken us.  The only reason any of us fight against our sinful natures in order to please God is because God works in us to do and to will of His good pleasure.  The only reason any of us will live forever in the glory of God is because He determined to lead us into the Promised Land.  Salvation is the work of God from beginning to end.  He is the author and finisher of our faith.  For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.

The events that God determined to take place during time in order that we may be saved are:  1) gospel call 2) inward call 3) regeneration, 4) conversion (faith & repentance), 5) justification, and 6) sanctification.  The last event – glorification – takes place after we depart the physical world and is completed in the final consummation of time and thereafter.   You may notice that in Part 1 I listed the events differently, most notably placing regeneration first in the order.  I had thought to delve into controversy in that area due to the fact that I allow for the possibility that regeneration can come before a person ever even knows of the Gospel message.  But, subsequent to the publication of Part 1, having considered the matter much further, I find myself having much lesser confidence in that position than I formerly held.  I will therefore present a standard reformed version of the order of salvation.

I.  The Gospel Call

This refers to the ministry of the word through preaching or other communication (tracts, the Bible itself, etc.) of the Gospel message.  The Gospel is simply the promise of God to provide a savior – that Savior being the crucified, buried, risen, and crowned King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ.

The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation, but not to everyone.  That’s right – some people are not effected by Gospel preaching.  Oh, they “hear” the Gospel (with their physical ears), but they do not “hear” the Gospel (with their spiritual ears, i.e., in the heart, or in the “inner man”).  For the Gospel to be effective, there must be something else – the inward call. 

II.  The Inward Call

This the “hearing” of the Gospel – that is, not with physical ears, but with spiritual ears.  “Him that hath ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit sayeth”.  This is the voice of the Sheppard that the sheep will hear.  For these people, the Gospel is effective, “effectual”, to their salavtion.  It is meaningful.  It changes them.  It brings a new hope, and a new worldview.  And it works hand-in-hand with regeneration.

 III Regeneration

John 3:7-8 (KJV) 7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. 8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

Titus 3:5 (KJV) Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

John 1:13 (KJV) Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

1 Peter 1:23 (KJV) Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.

James 1:19 (KJV) Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:

When we are born into this world, we are born with a “nature” that is common to all human beings without exception.  The Bible tells us that the “natural man” will not receive the things of God (1 Cor 2:14).  The nature with which we are born is at “enmity” against God, and the carnal mind is not subject to the law of God (Rom 8:7).

Since our nature is opposed to God, we need a new nature.  And just how could we get this new nature?  The answer is that God, in a supernatural act of His divine power, through the operation of the Holy Spirit, imparts HIS nature into the hearts of those He has elected to be saved.  When this happens, a person is “born again”.

The born again person is a person that has been made willing to repent of sin and trust Christ, loves God, desires to know Him, hates the sin that besets him, and longs for the day of perfect fellowship with God.

People cannot give birth to themselves.  This is true literally and spiritually.  The new birth is the work of God through the Holy Spirit.  Let’s look at a portion of the John 3 passage:

8 The wind…

The word “wind” in the original greek is the word “pneuma”, which is the same word that is translated “Spirit” elsewhere.  So we can easily see that the wind is symbolic of the Spirit of God.  And what does it do? 

…bloweth where it listeth…

The word “listeth” means “wills, or desires”.  So we see that God’s Spirit moves where He desires.  This is in perfect keeping with the idea that only the Spirit can birth a child of God, as we see in John 1:13: “who were born…of God”.

No one can control God.  No one can demand, or claim, or convince God to act.  God, and God alone, is in control of the world, and He will send blessing and bring judgement by His own decree. 

On a related subject, many people wonder at what precise time they come to be saved.  I will deal with this issue more in the section on conversion, since faith and repentance are the first consciouse, knowable eveidences of being born again.  It is often, if not usually, hard to determine the exact point in time in which an individual passes from a state of unbelief to a state of belief.  Some people have instantaneous, spectacular conversion experiences that give a definite mark in time as to their conversion.  I think of C. S. Lewis’ own testimony of his conversion:

“I was driven to Whipsnade one sunny morning. When we set out I did not believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and when we reached the zoo I did.”

While he still lacks the knowledge of the precise moment of conversion, nevertheless he can point to a particular span of time in which his conversion took place.

Others come into the kingdom by increments, and their conversion is more aptly described as taking place in a “season” rather than a moment.  John Bunyan’s conversion experience can be described in these terms.  Sometimes, these “seasons” can last for years.

Such is the experience of the new birth.  It is a supernatural act of God. Man can not identifify the exact moment of the new birth, for man has no control over it.  He can neither cause it nor prevent it.  Man did not concieve his spiritual self; and he can not birth his spiritual self, anymore than the could he could physically concieve himself and give birth to himself.  Man can only examine himself for the evidences of the new birth, whether he possesses them or not.  And what are these evidences?  They are nothing less than certain continuing aspects of salvation that will be dealt with in future articles; namely, repentance, faith, and sanctification.  Justification is a legal aspect of salvation, and does not carry “evidences” per se, and glorification certainly is an outward evidence of salvation, being the very consummation of salvation, but it does not take place in this life, but in the eternal day.   

Regeneration is the beginning of our life in Christ, but we will continue our journey in later articles as we examine these important aspects of the experience we call “salvation”.

 

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