Today, Christmas Eve, we continue with our reading through John Murray’s Redemption Accomplished and Applied. In the last chapter he provided an examination of the effectual calling; this week he turns to the next step in the chain of events that together comprise the application of the atonement to the elect: regeneration.
The effectual calling, Murray says, “must carry along with it the appropriate response on the part of the person called. It is God who calls but it is not God who answers the call; it is the person to whom the call is addressed. And this response must enlist the exercise of the heart and mind and will of the person concerned.” But here we are faced with a thorny situation. “How can a person who is dead in trespasses and sins, whose mind is enmity against God, and who cannot do that which is well-pleasing to God answer a call to the fellowship of Christ?” Says Murray when getting to the heart of the problem, “there is a complete incongruity between the glory and virtue to which sinners are called, on the one hand, and the moral and spiritual condition of the called, on the other.” To get from effectual calling to faith and repentance, something must happen to make the dead come to life. What happens is God’s work of regeneration.
We see the grace of God in regeneration. “God’s call, since it is effectual, carries with it the operative grace whereby the person called is enabled to answer the call and to embrace Jesus Christ as he is freely offered the gospel.” And so this effectual call to the gospel is a call that is accompanied by the grace needed to answer it. There is a general call which men are required to heed but for which many are not given necessary grace to answer, and there is an effectual call in which grace is given so men may repent. Thus the effectual call and regeneration go hand-in-hand; one must be accompanied by the other.
In this chapter Murray turns to the story of Nicodemus and especially Jesus’ words to him: “Except one be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” He shows that “water” here refers to the water of washing saying, “This is the purificatory aspect of regeneration. Regeneration must negate the past as well as reconstitute for the future. It must cleanse from sin as well as recreate in righteousness.” He defends the monergistic aspect of regeneration showing it to be a work of God alone, one that is independent of human choice or agency. “We are as dependent upon the Holy Spirit as we are upon the action of our parents in connection with our natural birth. We were not begotten by our father because we decided to be and we were not born of our mother because we decided to be. We were simply begotten and we were born. We did not decide to be born.” And neither does anyone choose to be regenerated. Instead God acts alone in his sovereignty and brings the dead to life. Knowing that men tend to react negatively to such theology he offers this warning: “If we recoil against it, we do well to remember that this recoil is recoil against Christ.”
He moves next to a defines of the change that regeneration must bring about in any believer. There is no believer, no convert, who has not been regenerated. And there can be no regeneration that does not bring about a new kind of life. “Regeneration is the logical and causal explanation of abstinence from sin and freedom from the touch of the evil one.” He says also, “We have a whole catalogue of virtues—belief that Jesus is the Christ, overcoming the world, abstinence from sin, self-control, incapacity to sin, freedom from the touch of the evil one, doing righteousness, love to God and one’s neighbour. And they are all the fruit of regeneration.” “The regenerate person cannot live in sin and be unconverted. And neither can he live any longer in neutral abstraction. He is immediately a member of the kingdom of God, he is spirit, and his action and behaviour must be consonant with that new citizenship.”
For next Thursday please read the next chapter—“Faith and Repentance.”
The purpose of this program is to read classics together. So if there are things that stood out to you in this chapter, if there are questions you had, this is the time and place to have your say. Feel free to post a comment below or to link to your blog if you’ve chosen to write about this on your own site.