Did John teach sinless perfectionism? Did he, by saying such things as, “whoever is born of God doesn’t sin” (1 John 5:18) assert what centuries later came to be called entire sanctification or Wesleyan perfectionism? According to this doctrine, Christians can attain a state of perfection in this life in which they completely defeat sin. Alternatively, other Bible teachers interpret John as merely saying that Christians no longer sin as a way of life or don’t sin willfully. Who’s right? Well, John, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, was right. And, maybe he wasn’t teaching either one of these things.
1. It is expressed as being born or begotten again (John 3:3, 7; 1 Peter 1:3, 23).
2. It is called being born from above (the phrase “born again” in John 3:3 and 7 may be rendered “born from above”; see the marginal rendering in many Bibles).
3. Those who are regenerated or born again the Bible calls newborn babes (1 Peter 2:2).
4. Regeneration is expressed as being quickened (made alive) (Ephesians 2:1, 5; Colossians 2:13).
5. Regeneration is signified by Christ being formed in the heart (Galatians 2:20; 4:6, 19; Colossians 3:10).
6. Regeneration is said to be a partaking of the divine nature (not of the essential nature of God, but a resemblance to the divine nature in spirituality, holiness, goodness, kindness, etc.) (2 Peter 1:4).
7. Depraved, unregenerate man cannot regenerate himself (Romans 8:5–9; 1 Corinthians 2:14; Ephesians 2:1, 5; Colossians 2:13).
8. Man cannot regenerate himself because regeneration is a creation and, therefore, not in the power of men to do it (2 Corinthians 5:17; Colossians 1:16).
9. Regeneration is expressly denied to be of men (John 1:12–13).
10. The efficient cause of regeneration is God only (John 1:12–13; 1 John 3:1–2, 9; 5:1)
God the Father (John 6:44, 65; James 1:17–18; 1 Peter 1:3)
God the Son (Galatians 4:6–7; 1 John 2:28–29)
God the Holy Spirit (John 3:5–6; 1 Corinthians 12:3; Titus 3:5).
11. The impulsive, or moving cause, of regeneration is the free grace, love, and mercy of God (Ephesians 2:4–5; James 1:17–18; 1 Peter 1:3).
12. The resurrection of Christ from the dead is the virtual or procuring cause of regeneration (1 Peter 1:3).
13. The instrumental cause of regeneration is the Word of God (Romans 10:13–21; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23–25).
14. Regenerate ones have the grace of life given them; they live a new life, and walk in newness of life; where before their understanding was darkened, they now are enlightened by the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of divine things (Romans 6:4; Ephesians 4:24; 5:8; Colossians 3:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:4–5; 1 Peter 2:9; 3:7).
15. Knowledge and actual enjoyment of the several blessings of grace follow upon regeneration (Ephesians 3:16–19).
16. Regenerate ones are made fit and capable for the performance of good works (Ephesians 2:10; 2 Timothy 2:21; Philippians 2:13; 4:13).
17. Regenerate ones are made fit for the kingdom of God (John 3:3, 5).
18. Humans are passive in regeneration (John 1:13; Romans 9:16).
19. Regeneration is of the will of God and cannot be resisted (John 6:37; Romans 8:29–30; 2 Timothy 1:9).
20. Regeneration is an act that is instantaneously done—there is never a middle state between life and death; regeneration is perfect—one can be partly regenerate no more than one can be partly dead and partly alive; yet regeneration always results in spiritual warfare between the old and new man with the new man winning in the end (Romans 6–8; 1 John 5:4).
21. The grace of regeneration can never be lost; one who is born in a spiritual sense can never be unborn (John 10:27-29; Romans 8:38-39; Philippians 1:6; 2 Thessalonians 3:3).
*Adapted from John Gill, A Complete Body of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity (1809; reprint, Paris, Ark.: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1995), 528–538.
You may want to read our article, “The New Birth.”
by Peter Ditzel
This is the second and last part of a two-part series on the doctrine of grace called Total Depravity.
Election and Calling
We’re going to talk about the new birth or regeneration called being born again. In the article, “No One Is Good” (which is part 1 of this series on Total Depravity), I asked, “If no one can choose Jesus Christ as Savior, how does He become one’s Savior?” Briefly, the answer is, we don’t choose Him, He chooses us.
We have no part in this choosing or election. It does not depend on our goodness, our cooperation, or our faith. In Romans 9, Paul is writing of God’s calling or choosing or election of Jacob and rejecting of Esau before they were even born: “For being not yet born, neither having done anything good or bad, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him who calls” (verse 11).
by Peter Ditzel
This is part 1 of a two-part series on the doctrine of grace called Total Depravity.
The LORD looked down from heaven on the children of men, to see if there were any who understood, who sought after God. They have all gone aside. They have together become corrupt. There is no one who does good, no, not one.
These two sentences, penned by David in Psalm 14:2–3, contain some powerful ideas. They say that none of the “children of men”—no one in all of humanity—does good, not even one. Now, if you read or watch the news you might be willing to admit that there are some bad characters in the world. But can it possibly be that no one does good? that everyone has “together become corrupt”? If this is true, if additional Scriptures support it, it might revolutionize your understanding of sin and salvation and even your entire worldview! In this article, you will find total depravity explained.
Almost all English Bibles translate Romans 8:15 as teaching our adoption: “For you didn’t receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!'” So also verse 23 and Galatians 4:5 and Ephesians 1:5, in English translations, refer to our adoption. Many preachers and Christian writers have praised God for His adopting us as His children. Certainly, adoption by the loving, all-powerful God of the universe would be a wonderful thing, and I would be very thankful for it, if it were what the Bible teaches. The thing is, the Bible doesn’t teach it. Everywhere the word “adoption” appears in an English-language New Testament, it is a poor translation that does not accurately convey the concept the Holy Spirit is revealing. Fortunately, what the Bible is saying is far greater and better than what we understand in English by the word “adoption.”
Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.
The above words of Jesus are puzzled over and wondered about by many. How can John the Baptist be both the greatest and less than the least? To answer this question, we must understand 1) Jesus’ comparison of two births, and 2) who John the Baptist was.