Lesson 27 – Irresistible Grace
The great majority of Christians believe in gospel regeneration. They believe that a person must hear and believe the gospel (or at least read the Word of God) in order to be born again. However, they have a problem with what to do with those who die in infancy or with those who are mentally incapable of hearing and understanding the gospel.
Invariably they try to come up with two ways of salvation, because almost no one is willing to admit that all those who die in infancy and all mental incompetents are destined for hell. So the gospel regenerators say that God uses the gospel to accomplish the new birth in “responsible adults” but that He takes care of all others some other way. Some even try to say that children are safe and sinless until they reach the “age of accountability.”
There is nothing about such an age of accountability in the Scriptures. There is no such thing as an “innocent” or sinless human being (infant or otherwise) since Adam plunged the entire human family into sin. That infants are all born with a sinful nature we have seen from such Scriptures as Romans 5:12; Psalm 51:5; Psalm 58:3; Job 14:4. The very fact that infants die is proof of their sinful nature. Sin is what brings death. See Romans 5:12; James 1:15.
Furthermore, the Scriptures will not allow us to say that there is more than one way of salvation. In fact the Scriptures assure us that the way one receives the new birth is the way all receive the new birth. This is the plain meaning of John 3:8 where it is said by the Savior, “so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” Everyone that is born of the Spirit is regenerated by free and sovereign grace. This grace can no more be resisted than can the blowing of the wind. Just as the operations of the wind are somewhat mysterious and only partially understood, so is this true of the workings of the Holy Spirit in regeneration.
We who believe in the direct operation of the Holy Spirit in the new birth have no trouble with these questions. We know that God regenerates infants and imbeciles the same way He does intelligent adults–with His Holy Spirit.
The Scriptures make plain that God has regenerated individuals before they were able to think in a reasonable manner. This is very plain in the case of David. He said, “Thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother’s breasts.” (Psalm 22:9)
This clause is rendered in Bagster’s Interlinerary Hebrew And English Psalter, p. 29, “causing me to trust upon the breasts of my mother.” The word for “hope” in Psalm 22:9 is BATACH, which, according to Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon To The Old Testament, p. 112 means, “to confide in anyone, to set one’s hope and confidence upon any one.” So it is obvious that David was regenerated while a suckling. It is just as obvious that this was before the stage of maturity to mentally comprehend either the spoken or written word of God. The conclusion that must be reached is that regeneration takes place on a level below the consciousness. Faith and repentance are those exercises which reveal this subconscious change.
Another infant who was regenerated in infancy was John the Baptist. In fact John was born again while in his mother’s womb.
“The babe leaped in her womb.”
“The babe leaped in my womb for joy.”
The occasion of the joy was the presence of his Savior who was in the womb of Mary. This was no ordinary leap of a babe in the womb of its mother. Elisabeth was enlightened by the Holy Spirit and she said the babe leaped for joy.
How does this square with a Scripture like John 17:3, where it is said, “And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.” The answer is simple. One of the basic meanings of know is “to be aware or cognizant of.” When a little baby is born it is well aware that something has happened to it even though it can’t put into words what has happened.
Later on, the babe knows its mother long before it has the ability to say, “This is my mother.” The same is true of a child of God who is born again in infancy. This little one knows that something has happened. The child feels joy in the presence of its Savior (just as an infant feels pleasure in the presence of its mother). Later as the child matures, it will give more mature indications of what has happened to it. This knowledge of Jesus Christ is imprinted into the hearts of God’s people by a direct action of the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 8:10-12; I John 2:27).
The Lord Jesus Christ very strongly taught that some infants would be regenerated in infancy when He said, “Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings Thou has perfected praise?” (Matthew 21:16). Another man the Lord very probably touched by His grace while he was in the womb was Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:5).
The infant son of David, who died in infancy, evidently was regenerated. David was sure that he went to heaven at death. David was a man after God’s own heart and God must have revealed this to him. When the boy died David said, “But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” (II Samuel 12:23).
These considerations further prove that “Salvation is of the Lord.” (Jonah 2:9).
1. What does “gospel regeneration” mean?
2. Give a verse that plainly teaches that there is only one way of salvation.
3. Name two individuals in Scripture who were born again at a very early age.
4. In what sense does a regenerated infant “know” Jesus Christ?
We have memorized Psalm 110:3 and II Corinthians 4:6.
Let us memorize John 5:25.