Adapted from a Sermon by J.C Ryle
Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3
The subject of Regeneration is a most important one at any time. Those words of our Lord Jesus Christ to Nicodemus are very solemn: “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3.) The world has gone through many changes since those words were spoken. Two thousand years have passed away. Empires and kingdoms have risen and fallen. Great men and wise men have lived, laboured, written, and died. But there stands the rule of the Lord Jesus unaltered and unchanged. And there it will stand, till heaven and earth will pass away: “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
It is all the more important today, when false teaching abounds and most are content with vague notions with respect to the central tenants of the Christian faith. At times like these let us hold firm to the truth and in particular what the Bible tells us about regeneration.
This morning’s sermon will attempt three things:
I. First, to explain what Regeneration, or being born again, means.
II. Secondly, to show the necessity of Regeneration.
III. Thirdly, to point out the marks and evidences of Regeneration.
It is hard to overestimate the importance of these three vital points. They have to do with where you will spend eternity after you die: In heaven or in hell. Can anything be more important than this?
I. Let us then, first of all, consider what Regeneration or being born again means.
Regeneration means, that change of heart and nature which a man goes through when he becomes a true Christian.
Now there can be no question that there is an immense difference among those who profess and call themselves Christians. Beyond all doubt there are always two classes in the visible Church: the class of those who are Christian in name and form only, and the class of those who are Christians in deed and in truth. All were not Israel who were called Israel, and all are not Christians who are called Christians.
Some do not have a lively faith; others, are made like the image of God’s only-begotten Son Jesus Christ, and walk religiously in good works. Some worship God as a mere form, and some in spirit and in truth. Some give their hearts to God, and some give them to the world. Some believe the Bible, and live as if they believed it: others do not. Some feel their sins and mourn over them: others do not. Some love Christ, trust in Him, and serve Him: others do not. In short, as Scripture says, some walk in the narrow way, some in the broad; some are the good fish of the Gospel net, some are the bad; some are the wheat in Christ’s field, and some are the tares.
Surely, no one with his eyes open can fail to see all this, and whatever he may think about the subject of regeneration, cannot possibly deny that this difference exists.
Now what is the explanation of the difference? The answer is, Regeneration, or being born again. That true Christians are what they are, because they are regenerate, and formal Christians are what they are, because they are not regenerate. The heart of the Christian in deed has been changed. The heart of the Christian in name only, has not been changed. The change of heart makes the whole difference.
This change of heart is spoken of continually in the Bible, under various emblems and figures.
Ezekiel calls it “a taking away the heart of stone, and giving a heart of flesh;”—“a giving a new heart, and putting within us a new spirit.” (Ezek. 11:19; 34:26.)
The Apostle John sometimes calls it being “born of God,”—sometimes being “born again,”—sometimes being “born of the Spirit” (John 1:13; 3:3, 6.)
The Apostle Peter, in the Acts, calls it “repenting and turning back.” (Acts 3:19.)
The Epistle to the Romans speaks of it as a being “brought from death to life.” (Rom. 6:13.)
The first Epistle of Peter speaks of it as “a being called out of darkness into God’s marvellous light.” (1 Peter 2:9.)
And the second Epistle, as “being made partakers of the Divine nature.” (2 Peter 1:4.)
The First Epistle of John calls it “a passing from death to life.” (1 John 3:14.)
All these expressions come to the same thing. They are all the same truth, only viewed from different sides. And all have one and the same meaning. They describe a great radical change of heart and nature,—a thorough change and transformation of the whole inner man,—a participation in the resurrection life of Christ.
This change of heart in a true Christian is thorough and complete, so complete, that no word could be chosen more fitting to express it than the word “Regeneration,” or “new birth.” Doubtless it is no outward, bodily change, but undoubtedly it is an entire transformation of the inner man. It adds no new faculties to a man’s mind, but it certainly gives an entirely new bent and bias to all his old ones. His will is so new, his tastes so new, his opinions so new, his views of sin, the world, the Bible, and Christ so new, that he is to all intents and purposes a new man. The change seems to bring a new being into existence. It may well be called being “born again.”
i) Now, this change is not always given to believers at the same time in their lives.
Some are born again when they are infants, and seem, like Jeremiah and John the Baptist, filled with the Holy Spirit even from their mother’s womb. Some few are born again in old age. The great majority of true Christians probably are born again after they grow up. A vast multitude of persons, it is to be feared, go down to the grave without having been born again at all.
ii) Again, this change of heart does not always begin in the same way in those who go through it after they have grown up.
With some, like the Apostle Paul and the jailer at Philippi, it is a sudden and a violent change, which comes with much distress of mind. With others, like Lydia of Thyatira, it is more gentle and gradual: their winter becomes spring almost without their knowing how. With some the change is brought about by the Spirit working through afflictions, or providential events. With others, and probably the greater number of true Christians, the Word of God preached or written, is the means of bringing it about.
iii) Also, this change is one which can only be known and discerned by its effects.
Its beginnings are a hidden and secret thing. We cannot see them. Our Lord Jesus Christ tells us this most plainly: “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 3:8.) Would we know if we are regenerate? We must answer the question by examining what we know of the effects of Regeneration. Those effects are always the same. The ways by which true Christians are led, in passing through their great change, are certainly various. But the state of heart and soul into which they are brought at last, is always the same. Ask them what they think of sin, Christ, holiness, the world, the Bible, and prayer, and you will find them all of one mind.
iv) Finally, this change is one which no man can give to himself, nor yet to another.
It would be as reasonable to expect the dead to raise themselves, or to require an artist to give a marble statue life. The sons of God are born “not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13.) Sometimes the change is ascribed to God the Father: “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ … has caused us to be born again to a living hope” (1 Peter 1:3.) Sometimes it is ascribed to God the Son: “the Son gives life to whom he will.” (John 5:21.) Sometimes it is ascribed to the Spirit,—and He in fact is the great agent by whom it is always carried out: “that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:6.) But man has no power to work the change. It is something far, far beyond his reach. No minister on earth can convey grace to any one of his congregation at his discretion. He may preach as truly and faithfully as Paul or Apollos; but God must “give the growth.” (1 Cor. 3:6.) He may baptize with water in the name of the Trinity; but unless the Holy Spirit accompanies and blesses the ordinance, there is no death to sin, and no new birth to righteousness. Jesus alone, the great Head of the Church, can baptize with the Holy Spirit. Blessed and happy are they, who have the inward baptism, as well as the outward.
Thus say the Scriptures with respect to Regeneration. It is that change of heart which is the distinguishing mark of a true Christian, the invariable companion of a justifying faith in Christ, the inseparable consequence of vital union with Him, and the root and beginning of inward sanctification. Clearly It is vastly important that our views should be clear upon this point,—What Regeneration really is.
There are many who do not agree with this description of Regeneration. They will think the definition is much too strong. Some hold that Regeneration only means admission into a state of religious privileges, by being made a member of the Church, but does not mean a change of heart. Some tell us that a regenerate man has a certain power within him which enables him to repent and believe if he thinks fit, but that he still needs a further change in order to make him a true Christian. Some say there is a difference between Regeneration and being born again. Others say there is a difference between being born again and conversion.
To all this one simple reply can be given, and that is, you will find no such Regeneration spoken of anywhere in the Bible.
A Regeneration which only means admission into a state of religious privilege may be ancient and date from long ago for all we know. But something more than this is necessary. A few plain texts of Scripture are needed; and these texts just do not exist.
The only Regeneration we see in Scripture is, not a change of state, but a change of heart.
It is a thing that we must feel and know by experience, each for himself, if we are to be saved. Let us try to become acquainted with it. Are our hearts changed? Talk, and argument and study about regeneration will all come to nothing , if after all we know nothing about it within.
II. Let us see, in the second place, the necessity there is for our being regenerate, or born again.
That there is such a necessity is most plain from our Lord Jesus Christ’s words in the third chapter of John’s Gospel. Nothing can be more clear and positive than His language to Nicodemus: “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’” (John 3:3, 7.)
The reason why this is necessary is the exceeding sinfulness and corruption of our natural hearts. The words of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians are literally accurate: “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him” (1 Cor. 2:14.) Just as rivers flow downward, and sparks fly upward, and stones fall to the ground, so does a man’s heart naturally incline to what is evil. We love our soul’s enemies,—we dislike our soul’s friends. We call good evil, and we call evil good. We take pleasure in ungodliness, we take no pleasure in Christ. We not only commit sin, but we also love sin. We not only need to be cleansed from the guilt of sin, but we also need to be delivered from its power.
The natural tone, bias, and current of our minds must be completely changed. The image of God, which sin has blotted out, must be restored. The disorder and confusion which reigns within us must be put down. The first things must no longer be last, and the last first. The Spirit must let in the light on our hearts, put everything in its right place, and create all things new.
It ought always to be remembered that there are two distinct things which the Lord Jesus Christ does for every sinner whom He undertakes to save. He washes him from his sins in His own blood, and gives him a free pardon:—this is his justification. He puts the Holy Spirit into his heart, and makes him an entirely new man:—this is his Regeneration.
i) The two things are both absolutely necessary to salvation.
The change of heart is as necessary as the pardon; and the pardon is as necessary as the change. Without the pardon we have no right or title to heaven. Without the change we should not be fit and ready to enjoy heaven, even if we got there.
ii) The two things are never separate.
They are never found apart. Every justified man is also a regenerate man, and every regenerate man is also a justified man. When the Lord Jesus Christ gives a man remission of sins, He also gives him repentance. When He grants peace with God, He also grants “power to become a son of God.” (John 1:12) There are two great standing maxims of the glorious Gospel, which ought never to be forgotten. One is: “Whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16.) The other is: “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” (Rom. 8:9.)
The man who denies the universal necessity of Regeneration can know very little of the heart’s corruption. He is blind indeed who imagines that pardon is all we need in order to get to heaven, and does not see that pardon without a change of heart would be a useless gift. Praise be to God that both are freely offered to us in Christ’s Gospel, and that Jesus is able and willing to give the one as well as the other!
Surely we must be aware that the vast majority of people in the world see nothing, feel nothing, and know nothing in religion as they ought. How and why this is, is not the present question. But put it to your own conscience—Is it not the fact?
Tell them of the sinfulness of many things which they are doing continually; and what is generally the reply?—“They see no harm.”
Tell them of the awful danger in which their souls are,—of the shortness of time,—the nearness of eternity,—the uncertainty of life,—the reality of judgment. They feel no danger.
Tell them of their need of a Saviour,—mighty, loving, and Divine, and of the impossibility of being saved from hell, except by faith in Him. It all falls flat and dead on their ears. They see no such great barrier between themselves and heaven.
Tell them of holiness, and the high standard of living which the Bible requires. They cannot understand the need of such strictness. They see no use in being so very good.
There are thousands and tens of thousands of such people on every side of us. They will hear these things all their lives. They will even go to church and listen to the most powerful appeals to their consciences. And yet when you come to visit them on their death-beds, they are like men and women who never heard these things at all. They know nothing of the leading doctrines of the Gospel by experience. They can give no reason whatever of their own hope.
And why is all this? What is the explanation?—What is the cause of such a sad state of things? It all comes from this,—that man naturally has no sense of spiritual things. In vain the sun of righteousness shines before him: the eyes of his soul are blind, and cannot see. In vain the music of Christ’s invitations sound around him: the ears of his soul are deaf, and cannot hear it. In vain the wrath of God against sin is proclaimed: the perceptions of his soul are blocked up;—like the sleeping traveller, he does not sense the coming storm. In vain the bread and water of life are offered to him: his soul is neither hungry for the one, nor thirsty for the other. In vain he is advised to run to the Great Physician: his soul is unconscious of its disease;—why should he go? In vain you put a price into his hand to buy wisdom: the mind of his soul wanders,—he is like the lunatic, who calls straws a crown, and dust diamonds; he says, “I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.” (Rev 3:17) Tragically, there is nothing so sad as the utter corruption of our nature! There is nothing so painful as the anatomy of a dead soul.
Now what does such a man need? He needs to be born again, and made a new creature. He needs a complete putting off the old man, and a complete putting on the new. We do not live our natural life till we are born into the world, and we do not live our spiritual life till we are born of the Spirit.
iii) But we must furthermore be aware that the vast majority of people are utterly unfit to enjoy heaven in their present state. Again I ask: Is it not so?
Look at the masses of men and women gathered together in our cities and towns, and observe them well. They are all dying creatures,—all immortal beings,—all going to the judgment-seat of Christ,—all certain to live for ever in heaven or in hell. But where is the slightest evidence that most of them are in the least degree fit and ready for heaven?
Look at the greater part of those who are called Christians, in every part throughout the world. Take any city or town you please. Take that which you know best. What are the tastes and pleasures of the majority of the people who live there? What do they like best, when they have a choice? What do they enjoy most, when they can have their own way? Observe the manner in which they spend their Sundays. Mark how little delight they seem to feel in the Bible and prayer. Take notice of the low and earthly notions of pleasure and happiness which reign everywhere, among young and old,—among rich and poor. Mark well these things,—and then think quietly over this question: “What would these people do in heaven?”
You and I, it may be said, know little about heaven. Our notions of heaven may be very dim and indistinct. But at all events, I suppose we are agreed in thinking that heaven is a very holy place,—that God is there,—and Christ is there,—and saints and angels are there,—that sin is not there in any shape,—and that nothing is said, thought, or done, which God does not like. Only let this be granted, and then I think there can be no doubt the great majority of people around us are as little fit for heaven as a bird for swimming beneath the sea, or a fish for living upon dry land.
And what is it that they need in order to make them fit to enjoy heaven? They need to be regenerated and born again. It is not just a little outward change that they need. It is not merely the restraining of raging passions and the quieting of unruly affections. All this is not enough. Old age,—the lack of opportunity, the fear of man, may produce all this. The tiger is still a tiger, even when he is chained, and the serpent is still a serpent, even when he lies motionless and coiled up. The change needed is far greater and deeper.
Every one must have a new nature put within him; every one must be made a new creature; the fountain-head must be purified; the root must be set right; each one needs a new heart and a new will. The change required is not that of the snake when he casts off his skin and yet remains a reptile still: it is the change of the caterpillar when he dies, and his crawling life ceases; but from his body rises the butterfly,—a new animal, with a new nature.
All this, and nothing less, is required.
The plain truth is, the vast proportion of professing Christians in the world have nothing whatever of Christianity except the name. The reality of Christianity, the graces, the experience, the faith, the hopes, the life, the conflict, the tastes, the hungering and thirsting after righteousness,—all these are things of which they know nothing at all. They need to be converted as truly as any among the Gentiles to whom Paul preached, and to be turned from idols, and renewed in the spirit of their minds as really, if not as literally.
And so one main part of the message which should be continually delivered to the greater portion of every congregation on earth is this: “You must be born again.” No doubt this will sound dreadful and uncharitable in many ears. But let any take the New Testament in his hand, and see what it says is Christianity, and compare that with the ways of professing Christians, and then deny this truth, if they can.
And now let each one consider well this grand principle of Scriptural religion: “No salvation without Regeneration,—no spiritual life without a new birth,—no heaven without a new heart.”
Let us not think for a moment that our subject this morning is a mere matter of controversy,—an empty question for learned men to argue about, but not one that concerns us. It concerns us deeply; it touches our own eternal interests, it is a thing that we must know for ourselves, feel for ourselves, and experience for ourselves, if we would ever be saved. No soul of man, woman, or child, will ever enter heaven without having been born again.
And let us not think for a moment that this Regeneration is a change which people may go through after they are dead, though they never went through it while they were alive. Such a notion is baseless. Now or never is the only time to be saved. Now, in this world of toil and labour, and money-getting, and business,—now we must be prepared for heaven, if we are ever to be prepared at all. Now is the only time to be justified, now the only time to be sanctified, and now the only time to be “born again.” So sure as the Bible is true, the man who dies without these three things will only rise again at the last day to be lost for ever.
We may be saved and reach heaven without many things which men take to be of great importance,—without riches, without learning, without books, without worldly comforts, without health, without house, without lands, without friends;—but without Regeneration we shall never be saved at all.
Without our natural birth we should never have lived and moved and heard this sermon on earth: without a new birth we shall never live and move in heaven. Scripture assures us that the saints in glory will be a multitude that no man can number. It is a comforting thought that after all there will be “many people” in heaven. But you may be assured on the authority of God’s Word, that of all who reach heaven there will not be one single individual who has not been born again.
III. Let us see, in the last place, the marks of being regenerate, or born again.
It is a most important thing to have clear and distinct views on this part of the subject we are considering. We have seen what Regeneration is, and why it is necessary to salvation. The next step is to find out the signs and evidences by which a man may know whether he is born again or not,—whether his heart has been changed by the Holy Spirit, or whether his change is yet to come.
Now these signs and evidences are laid down plainly for us in Scripture. God has not left us in ignorance on this point. He foresaw how some would torture themselves with doubts and questionings, and would never believe it was well with their souls. He foresaw how others would take it for granted they were “regenerate,” who had no right to do so at all. He has therefore mercifully provided us with a test and gauge of our spiritual condition, in the First Epistle of John.
There he has written for our learning what the regenerate man is, and what the regenerate man does,—his ways, his habits, his manner of life, his faith, his experience. Every one who wishes to possess the key to a right understanding of this subject should thoroughly study the First Epistle of John.
I invite your careful attention to five marks and evidences of Regeneration, while I try to set them before you in order. He that has an ear let him hear what the beloved Apostle says about the marks of Regeneration.
(1) First of all, the Apostle John says, “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning;” and again, “everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning.” (1 John 3:9; 5:18.)
A regenerate man does not commit sin as a habit. He no longer sins with his heart and will, and whole inclination, as an unregenerate man does. There was probably a time when he did not think whether his actions in private or in public, at home or at work, were sinful or not, and never felt grieved after doing evil. There was no quarrel between him and sin;—they were friends.
Now he hates sin, flees from it, fights against it, counts it his greatest plague, groans under the burden of its presence, mourns when he falls under its influence, and longs to be delivered from it altogether. In one word, sin no longer pleases him, nor is even a matter of indifference: it has become the abominable thing which he hates. He cannot prevent it dwelling within him. “If he said he had no sin, there would be no truth in him” (1 John 1:8); but he can say that he wholeheartedly abhors it, and the great desire of his soul is not to commit sin at all.
He cannot prevent bad thoughts arising within him, and shortcomings, omissions, and defects appearing both in his words and actions. He knows, as the Apostle James says, that “in many things we offend all.” (James 3:2.) But he can say truly, and as in the sight of God, that these things are a daily grief and sorrow to him, and that his whole nature does not consent to them, as that of the unregenerate man does.
(2) Secondly, the Apostle John says, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God.” (1 John 5:1.)
A regenerate man believes that Jesus Christ is the only Saviour by whom his soul can be pardoned and justified; that He is the Divine Person appointed and anointed by God the Father for this very purpose, and that beside Him there is no Saviour at all. In himself he sees nothing but unworthiness, but in Christ he sees ground for the fullest confidence, and trusting in Him he believes that his sins are all forgiven, and his iniquities all put away.
He believes that for the sake of Christ’s finished work and death upon the cross he is counted righteous in God’s sight, and may look forward to death and judgment without alarm. He may have his fears and doubts. He may sometimes tell you he feels as if he had no faith at all.
But ask him whether he is willing to trust in anything instead of Christ, and see what he says. Ask him whether he will rest his hopes of eternal life on his own goodness, his own amendments, his prayers, his minister, his doings in church and out of church, either in whole or in part, and see what he will reply. Ask him whether he will give up Christ, and place his confidence in any other way of salvation. You can depend on it, he would say, that though he does feel weak and bad, he would not give up Christ for all the world. He would say he found a preciousness in Christ, a suitableness to his own soul in Christ, that he found nowhere else, and that he must cling to Him.
(3) Thirdly, the Apostle John says, “everyone who practices righteousness has been born of God.” (1 John 2:29.)
The regenerate man is a holy man. He endeavours to live according to God’s will: to do the things that please God, to avoid the things that God hates. His aim and desire is to love God with heart, and soul, and mind, and strength, and to love his neighbour as himself. His wish is to be continually looking to Christ as his example as well as his Saviour, and to show himself Christ’s friend by doing whatsoever Christ commands.
No doubt he is not perfect. No one will tell you that sooner than himself. He groans under the burden of indwelling corruption clinging to him. He finds an evil principle within him constantly warring against grace, and trying to draw him away from God. But he does not consent to it, though he cannot prevent its presence. In spite of all shortcomings, the average bent and bias of his way is holy,—his doings holy, his tastes holy,—and his habits holy,—in spite of all his swerving and turning aside, like a ship beating up against a contrary wind, the general course of his life is in one direction, toward God and for God.
And though he may sometimes feel so low that he questions whether he is a Christian at all, in his calmer moments he will generally be able to say with old John Newton “I am not what I ought to be; I am not what I want to be; I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am.”
(4) Fourthly, the Apostle John says, “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers..” (1 John 3:14.)
A regenerate man has a special love for all true disciples of Christ. Like his Father in heaven, he loves all men with a great general love, but he has a special love for those who are of one mind with himself. Like his Lord and Saviour, he loves the worst of sinners, and could weep over them; but he has a peculiar love for those who are believers.
He is never so much at home as when he is in their company: he is never so happy as when he is among the saints and the excellent of the earth. Others may value learning, or cleverness, or agreeableness, or riches, or rank, in the society they choose.
The regenerate man values grace. Those who have most grace, and are most like Christ, are those he most loves. He feels that they are members of the same family with himself, —his brethren, his sisters, children of the same Father. He feels that they are fellow-soldiers, fighting under the same captain, warring against the same enemy. He feels that they are his fellow-travellers, journeying along the same road, tried by the same difficulties, and soon about to rest with him in the same eternal home. He understands them, and they understand him. There is a kind of spiritual fellowship between them. He and they may be very different in many ways,—in rank, in station, in wealth. But what does this matter? They are Jesus Christ’s people: they are His Father’s sons and daughters. Then he cannot help loving them.
(5) Fifthly, the Apostle John says, “Everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.” (1 John 5:4.)
A regenerate man does not make the world’s opinion his rule of right and wrong. He does not mind going against the stream of the world’s ways, notions, and customs. “What will men say?” is no longer a turning point with him. He overcomes the love of the world. He finds no pleasure in things which most around him call happiness. He cannot enjoy their enjoyments,—they weary him,—they appear to him vain, unprofitable, and unworthy of an immortal being.
He overcomes the fear of the world. He is content to do many things which all around him think unnecessary, to say the least. They blame him: it does not move him. They ridicule him: he does not give way. He loves the praise of God more than the praise of man. He fears offending Him more than giving offence to man. He has counted the cost. He has taken his stand. It is a small thing with him now, whether he is blamed or praised. His eye rests on Him that is invisible. Him he is resolved to follow wherever He goes.
It may be necessary in this following to come out from the world and be separate. The regenerate man will not shrink from doing so. Tell him that he is unlike other people, that his views are not the views of society generally, and that he is making himself odd and peculiar. You will not shake him. He is no longer the servant of fashion and custom. To please the world is quite a secondary consideration with him. His first aim is to please God.
Such are five great marks of Regeneration, which God has given for our learning. May every one here present lay them to heart.
Admittedly there is a vast difference in the depth and distinctness of these marks among those who are truly “regenerate.” In some people they are faint, dim, feeble, and hardly to be discerned. You almost need a microscope to make them out. In others they are bold, sharp, clear, plain, and unmistakable, so that they are seen at a glance. Some of these marks are more visible in some people, and others are more visible in others. It seldom happens that all are equally manifest in one and the same soul.
But still, after every allowance, here we find boldly painted five marks of being born of God. Here are certain positive things laid down by the Apostle John as parts of the regenerate man’s character, as plainly and distinctly as the features of a man’s face. Here is an inspired Apostle writing one of the last general Epistles to the Church of Christ, telling us that a man born of God does not commit sin,—believes that Jesus is the Christ,—practices righteousness,—loves the brethren, and overcomes the world. And more than once in the very same Epistle, when these marks are mentioned, the Apostle tells us that he who does not have this or that mark is “not of God.” Please consider this carefully.
Now what shall we say to these things? What can they say who hold that Regeneration means only being a member of a visible Church? Reason leads to one conclusion. That conclusion is, that those persons only are “regenerate” who have these five marks about them, and that all men and women who do not have these marks are not “regenerate”; are not born again. This is clearly the conclusion to which the Apostle wishes us to come.
We live in a day of gross darkness on the subject of Regeneration. Thousands are darkening God’s counsel by confounding baptism and Regeneration. Let us beware of this. Let us keep the two subjects separate in our mind and hold to the biblical teaching respecting each one.
Thousands are darkening God’s counsel by confounding intellectual assent and Regeneration. Let us beware of this. Regeneration goes much deeper than making a decision and signing a card. A man born of God truly undergoes a fundamental change.
Let us get clear views about Regeneration first of all, and then we are not likely to fall into these tragic mistakes. And when we have got clear views let us hold them fast, and never let them go.