God’s Sovereignty in Regeneration

by Mike Ratliff

3 As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; 4 and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” 5 And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, 6 but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do.” Acts 9:3-6 (NASB)

I will be 70 years old in October this year (2021). God had mercy on me in January 1986 when I was 34 years old. I remember it well. I was religious. I was a church member. I took my wife and small family to church every Sunday. I even ushered when asked. We attended Sunday morning services, Sunday evening services, Wednesday evening services, whatever was going on at that church we were part of it. However, I was just being religious. I was just going through the motions like I had done my whole life. I grew up going to church. The pastor of that church and I were friends from High School. However, there was something missing.

What was it? I was a very fleshly person just as I had always been. I had anger issues. I had one foot in church while the rest of me was in the world. I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of people like that haven’t you? Everything changed one very cold day in January 1986. We drove to church. Our Sunday School class met in the Choir practice room. I took our 4 year old son to his class while my wife took our 8 year old daughter to her’s. We met back in our class room. What happened next is hard to explain. Everyone was milling around in the room. Our class room had several levels of seating because the Choir practiced in there. While most everyone was milling around fellowshipping I did my normal thing, which was “fellowship avoidance.” I got a donut or some sort of snack, I don’t remember now what it was. I climbed up to the top row of seats to get as far from the crowd as I could. I found two seats and motioned to my wife that we were going to sit there. Then I sat down.

Just as the seat of my pants hit that chair it was like I was alone in the room. Oh, I could still see everyone, but it no longer mattered because I suddenly became fully aware that I was lost. I was overwhelmed with the knowledge that I was a sinner and there was no hope for me to escape God’s judgment by simply going through the motions of being religious. This voice or whatever it was hammered me all through Sunday School and afterwards in Church. I don’t remember anything about either. I remember driving home, but I don’t remember anything about lunch. I couldn’t tell you who played in the NFL playoffs that day. All I remember was that I was at that point where it was time to obey the Lord, right now!

I prayed all afternoon quietly. As we drove back to Church that evening I was full of joy because I knew God had done something miraculous in me. I didn’t fully understand it. I just knew that I had woke up that morning as a phony christian and now I was brand new. I was Born Again. When my friend, my pastor, gave that altar call at the end of the service I was right there. I told him that I thought I was a Christian when we joined his church, but I wasn’t, but I was now and was certain. I was Baptized the following Sunday.

Nothing has changed except God has definitely matured me over the years and taken me through some very severe tests and trials. I am sure He is not done yet. In light of this I would like to share a devotion from Tabletalk Magazine from a few days ago. I do a devotion daily from Tabletalk Magazine as part of morning quiet time. I highly recommend it.

“Falling to the ground, Saul heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And he said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do’ ” (vv. 4–6).

Different conceptions of regeneration exist even among Bible-believing Christians, and these differences are some of the most significant reasons for division in the church today. Why do these differences exist? Largely because we differ over the way that God works in regeneration. Fundamentally, all views of regeneration encapsulate one of two views of the way that God works in His people to bring them to new spiritual life: monergism or synergism.

In synergism, we are speaking of a “working together.” That is, human beings and God cooperate to achieve the new birth in human souls. To be sure, the Lord takes the initiative. He calls out to the hearts of unbelievers to change, even giving them enough grace to be able to say yes to this call. Nevertheless, God does not guarantee that we will embrace Him. The choice is finally up to us. We get enough grace to be “barely alive,” as it were, and we must do the rest to be fully revived from spiritual death. The problem, of course, is that the Bible never says we cooperate with God in being made alive. We come into the world spiritually dead, and He alone makes us alive, with no help from us (Ps. 51:5Eph. 2:4–5). Furthermore, in putting regeneration after our faith, synergism does not uphold Jesus’ teaching in John 3:3. If we must be born again before we can see the kingdom of God, we must be born again before we can believe the gospel.

Monergism, on the other hand, consists of a “working alone.” God and God alone acts in regeneration. The Holy Spirit sovereignly transforms our souls, bringing us to full spiritual life. The Lord not only enables us to choose Jesus, but He also guarantees we will choose Him. In God’s monergistic work of regeneration, we are not born again because we trust Jesus; we trust Jesus because we are born again.

Today’s passage helps to confirm that God’s work in regeneration is sovereign and monergistic. There is no hint that Saul of Tarsus was willing to consider, let alone follow, Jesus the Messiah before that pivotal day on the road to Damascus. Saul actually was dead set on destroying the body of Christ. That all ended when Jesus spoke to him. Saul offered no resistance when Christ knocked him to the ground. The Holy Spirit changed his heart, ensuring that Paul would become the Apostle to the gentiles (Acts 9:1–19). God did not merely ask Saul to believe; He guaranteed that he would believe.

CORAM DEO Living before the face of God

The Lord is sovereign in regeneration because He is sovereign in salvation. This is good news for us because it means God never fails to save those whom He has chosen. And it also means that we can glorify only the Lord for our redemption.

Soli Deo Gloria!

 

2 thoughts on “God’s Sovereignty in Regeneration

  1. Pingback: God’s Sovereignty in Regeneration — Possessing the Treasure | Talmidimblogging

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