Lesson 35 – Irresistible Grace
We have previously studied that regeneration is a direct work of the Holy Spirit while conversion is a work of the gospel (the preached or written word).
Before we examine the Scriptures concerning these points let us note a few quotations from the book Regeneration and Conversion by W. E. Best:
“The mission of the church is not to regenerate people; she is to preach the gospel whereby those whose hearts have already been prepared in regeneration are made ready to embrace Christ through conversion. Here is a lesson for all of God’s servants to heed. The gospel is good news to those whom the Holy Spirit has regenerated. Paul says it is foolishness to everyone else.” (p. 5).
“The new birth, contrary to what is commonly taught is something done not merely for, but in man, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Some believe that the subject is active in the new birth, and the Spirit employs the Word as God’s means of accomplishing regeneration. But the subject, according to Scriptures, is spiritually dead, blind, deaf, and dumb … The Holy Spirit, therefore, must quicken the passive spirit of the sinner making him sensitive to the call of the gospel. Sensitivity to the gospel is the fruit of regeneration.” (p. 12).
Keep these wonderful statements in mind as we study the Scriptures which deal with the purpose of the gospel.
Life And Immortality Revealed
God’s purpose and grace “is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (II Timothy 1:10). This verse tells us what the gospel is for. The gospel brings “life and immortality to light.”
What does this mean?
The words translated “hath brought to light” are from PHOTIZO. The word means “to bring to light.” (W. E. Vine). It means “to render evident.” (Thayer). It means “to reveal something.” (Arndt and Gingrich). So the purpose of the gospel is to reveal life and immortality. It does not create nor impart life and immortality. When the Holy Spirit regenerates a person, that work is a hidden work, but the gospel reveals that work. When the individual responds to the preaching of the gospel, the work of grace which had been wrought in the heart of that individual is now revealed.
Knowledge Of Salvation
John the Baptist was the first gospel preacher. He preached the same message as did the Lord Jesus Christ. John’s father, Zacharias, was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied of his son. He prophesied of John: “And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways; to give knowledge of salvation unto His people by the remission of their sins.” (Luke 1:76-77).
John did not come to give salvation. He came to give “knowledge of salvation.” And this knowledge was to be imparted to “His people” (the people of God). The word “gospel” means good news. The Person and Work of Christ is good news to God’s people. It is not good news to the reprobate who will be forever in hell. But the “knowledge” of salvation which is brought by the gospel is sweet to the one who has eternal life.
Begotten By The Gospel
Paul said to the Corinthians that, “I have begotten you through the gospel.” (I Corinthians 4:15). Paul was not saying here that the Corinthians had been born again or regenerated by the gospel. He was saying that they had been converted to the truth by the gospel. (For a complete discussion of this verse see the pamphlet, Begotten by the Gospel: What Does This Mean? by Zack Guess.)
Begotten By The Word Of Truth
Speaking of God, James says, “Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.” (James 1:18).
The word translated “begat” is APOKUEO. It means “to bring forth from the womb, or to give birth to.” (Thayer). James is not talking about the initial giving of life, but about life being brought forth to the level of consciousness. In the spiritual realm as well as in the natural the conception of life is an instantaneous happening. But the development and birth of this conceived life is a process. The conception is done by the Holy Spirit. The birth (conversion or coming to a realization of one’s possession of eternal life) is done by the word of truth. James here is not talking about regeneration: he is talking about conversion. (For an excellent discussion of this and related Scriptures see The Power of the Word by Jimmy Barber).
The Word Of God Revives
David wrote: “This is my comfort in my affliction: for Thy word hath quickened me.” (Psalm 119:50).
The word translated “quickened” can be translated, “Make alive.” But it can also be translated, “revive.” It is used in the sense of “revive” here. This seems to be obvious from the way the word is used elsewhere in this psalm. In Verse 25 and in verse 37, David asked the Lord to quicken him. It is evident that he already possessed eternal life when he wrote this psalm. So he did not ask the Lord to give him life; rather he asked the Lord to revive the life which he already had but which had fallen to a low ebb in the exercise of it. It is equivalent to “restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation.” (Psalm 51:12). He did not say “restore to me salvation,” but “restore the joy of salvation” which had been taken away by sin.
The Lord Saves; The Gospel Looses
When Jesus came to the tomb of the dead Lazarus He said, “Lazarus, come forth.” (John 11:43). The same Jesus who spoke physical life into existence by His voice speaks spiritual life into existence by His voice. “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing; the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63).
After Lazarus had been given life Jesus said to those round about, “Loose him, and let him go.” (John 11:44). The people loosed the living Lazarus from the graveclothes which greatly hindered his exercise of the life which he possessed. This is what the gospel does; it does not give life, but it frees the possessors of life from ignorance, superstition, and error. Only Christ, speaking through the Holy Spirit, can give life.
There are many other Scriptures which could be examined on this point but they would not contradict what has been taught. The Holy Spirit regenerates. The gospel converts.
1. What is the difference in regeneration and conversion?
2. Is the sinner passive or active in the new birth?
3. What is the function of the gospel as regards life and immortality?
4. Is “the knowledge of salvation” the same thing as salvation?
5. What does “begotten through the gospel” mean? (I Corinthians 4:15).
6. What does “begotten by the word of truth” mean? (James 1:18).
7. What does “quicken” mean in Psalm 119:50?
We have memorized Psalm 110:3; II Corinthians 4:6; John 5:25; Philippians 1:29; John 3:8; John 6:37,44; I Pet. 1:21; John 6:29; Titus 3:5; and Romans 8:28-30.
Let us memorize John 6:63.