Tag Archives: Spurgeon

Regeneration and the Necessity of Faith and Repentance

In the last post, we looked at several New Covenant promises as detailed in 2 Old Testament passages, Ezekiel 36 and Jeremiah 31.  Summarizing some key aspects of the New Covenant promises we focused on the gift of a new heart, i.e. regeneration, and the gift of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.  Additionally, we observed that Ezekiel 36 was the likely background for Jesus’ statement to Nicodemas in John 3 that “you must be born again to see the kingdom of God.”  The conclusion was that regeneration is necessary to entering heaven.  Now with that in mind, we turn in this post to the necessary evidences of regeneration: faith and repentance.

In the Gospel of Mark, we find a fascinating account of Jesus unlike the other Gospels.  Much like the headlines of a newspaper, Mark is concerned with focusing on the details of our Lord’s ministry and rapidly advances his narrative with the phrase “immediately” (used at least 9 times in Chapter 1).  Whereas Matthew and Luke provide the genealogy of Christ along with details of His birth and childhood, Mark’s approach is to commence with the 3 year earthly ministry of Christ.  For this reason, we read Jesus inaugurating His ministry with the words, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:15 So much could be said about this, but we’ll look briefly at the first two phrases before resting on the imperative statement of Jesus to “repent and believe in the gospel.”

“The time is fulfilled” – It’s not a mere coincidence that Jesus’ ministry begins just as John the Baptist’s is ending.  In fact, we learn that John the Baptist has just been imprisoned in the verse prior to this one.  John is the last of the Old Testament prophets.  He’s the one whom the prophets of old have foretold, “one crying in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the Lord.” (Mark 1:3 quoting Isaiah 40:3) In the sense of fulfilled here, all that the Old Testament, both the Law and the Prophets, has foretold reaches its fulfillment in the person of Jesus Christ.  Similarly, the time that God had planned to bring forth His son has come as well.  (See Galatians 4:4).  The time of waiting is over, the King has arrived.

“The kingdom of God is at hand” – Up to this point, John has functioned much like a herald for a king, “Hear ye, Hear ye, now comes the King!”  In Medieval times, a herald was one who preceded the king’s entrance to make the announcement of his arrival.  A working definition is “an official formerly charged with making royal proclamations and bearing messages of state between sovereigns.”  This is precisely the way in which John the Baptist performs his ministry, especially as seen in Mark 1:2, 3, 7.  Now that King Jesus is on the scene, He can officially state that the kingdom of God is at hand, or perhaps more literally in your midst.  Jesus’ use of kingdom of God here is significant in that it provides continuity with the Old Testament idea of kingdom.  William Lane points out that kingdom, “links his [Jesus’] proclamation to the self-revelation of God in the OT and stresses the continuity between the new and older revelation.”   It’s likely that Daniel 2:44 can be seen in the background here with the inauguration of Jesus’ kingdom, “And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever”

“Repent and believe in the Gospel” – We usually hear that the Gospel is “Jesus died on the cross for our sins” but here we see Jesus command belief in the gospel at least 3 years prior to His death, burial, and resurrection.  Is He demanding a future looking faith?  Is He calling people to believe that He will die on the cross?  Or is He properly defining the term Gospel for us?  It would seem to be more of the latter.  The Gospel here is an announcement, that the “good news” has arrived.  This gospel, or good news, is none other than Christ Himself.  Jesus is commanding repentance and belief in Him.  Repentance is more than simply turning from sin.  There must be a hatred of it, a rejection of past ways.  But repentance must be connected with faith, for to turn from sin without setting one’s gaze on Christ is pointless.  Repentance and faith can only be commanded in conjunction with the Gospel.  The Gospel must be announced, it must be preached (Romans 10:14).  Jesus is commanding repentance and belief in His Gospel, i.e. the very person that He is as the Son of God.

Some have tried to separate the necessity of faith from repentance resulting in easy believism.  Others have so over emphasized repentance that it would appear faith takes a backseat.  On some level, a logical order might seem to apply to these demands, i.e. faith first and then repentance.  But no such distinction is necessary because they are two sides of the same coin and to separate one from the other violates both.  Instead, a far more sane approach to understanding how repentance and faith are ordered is to view it as believing repentance and repentant faith.  Spurgeon comments:

“The repentance which is here commanded is the result of faith; it is born at the same time with faith—they are twins, and to say which is the elder-born passes my knowledge. It is a great mystery; faith is before repentance in some of its acts, and repentance before faith in another view of it; the fact being that they come into the soul together.”

As we’ve seen, a new heart is necessary, but so is repentance and faith in the gospel.  It follows then that the new heart given by God is the soil, the Gospel is the seed, and repentance and faith are the first fruits.

One Body, One Church

Ephesians 2:11-22 11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”

In the late 1800s to early 1900s a unique system of theological thought emerged on the scene primary birthed by John Darby, Louis Sperry Chafer, and C.I. Scofield and was brought into the mainstream by Charles Ryrie and others.  This “dispensational” system of biblical interpretation is summarized by Ryrie in 3 main points:

  1. A clear distinction between Israel and the Church
  2. A literal interpretation of Scripture
  3. The glory of God as the primary goal of history

Without question, any Christian holding strongly to a biblical worldview would agree wholeheartedly with point #3.  The glory of God is the supreme chief end of all that God does and as is stated in 1 Corinthians 10:31 should be the primary goal of all that we Christians do as well.  Point #2, while on the surface would get a rousing ‘Amen’, should be analyzed more closely as to what exactly is meant and then understood that the context of a passage dictates the interpretation and not vice versa.  For instance, in Psalm 50:10 the Lord says, “For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills.”  If read “literally” apart from context, then we are left with the cattle on hill 1001 belonging to someone else.  That’s not the case here, as this reference was to simply prove a point that the magnitude of God’s “ownership” over His creation is immense.  Similarly, much of the prophetic passages in the Bible use imagery, visions, and other language to describe future events.  An example would be Revelation 13:1-3 “And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads.  And the beast that I saw was like a leopard; its feet were like a bear’s, and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth.  And to it the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority.”  Taken in a strict literal sense apart from context, the end times would be marked by a beast that resembles something out of a science fiction movie, rather than having prophetic meaning behind the imagery that is used here which lends itself to a better understanding of who this individual Antichrist might be.  The classic dispensationalist, ala Ryrie, is then forced to decide, are they to stick with a wooden literal interpretation from Genesis to Revelation and force a meaning into Scripture, or are they to let context and the author’s original intent, i.e. literary genre, determine how the passage of Scripture is to be read.  This of course is not to deny that the Bible is the literal Word of God, nor does it mean that when Jonah describes being in the belly of a fish he actually is using imagery.  No, it was a literal fish and again, context must reign.  Allegorizing God’s Word is a dangerous error and as has been pointed out even though multiple writing styles (poetry, prophesy, parables, etc.) are utilized it must be understood that the Bible is to be interpreted literally within its context.  For a discussion on dispensational use of “literal interpretation” see the article by Vern Poythress, “What is Literal Interpretation?” found here: Monergism – Dispensationalism.

This aside, the classic dispensational system has its greatest challenge in their first point, “a clear distinction between Israel and the Church”.  It  is this point that forces a division to be read into Scripture rather than understanding biblical theology from Genesis to Revelation maintains a central thread of the redemption of God’s people from all times through His Son Jesus Christ leading to the consummation of Christ and His bride for the very purpose of the glory of God.  To this system of dispensational theology, Charles Spurgeon wrote the following admonition:

“Distinctions have been drawn by certain exceedingly wise men (measured by their own estimate of themselves), between the people of God who lived before the coming of Christ, and those who lived afterwards. We have even heard it asserted that those who lived before the coming of Christ so not belong to the church of God! We never know what we shall hear next, and perhaps it is a mercy that these absurdities are revealed at one time, in order that we may be able to endure their stupidity without dying of amazement. Why, every child of God in every place stands on the same footing; the Lord has not some children best beloved, some second-rate offspring, and others whom he hardly cares about. These who saw Christ’s day before it came, had a great difference as to what they knew, and perhaps in the same measure a difference as to what they enjoyed while on earth meditating upon Christ; but they were all washed in the same blood, all redeemed with the same ransom price, and made members of the same body. Israel in the covenant of grace is not natural Israel, but all believers in all ages. Before the first advent, all the types and shadows all pointed one way—they pointed to Christ, and to him all the saints looked with hope. Those who lived before Christ were not saved with a different salvation to that which shall come to us. They exercised faith as we must; that faith struggled as ours struggles, and that faith obtained its reward as ours shall.” (From his sermon “Jesus Christ Immuntable” [emphasis from here http://www.spurgeon.org/misc/eschat2.htm ].

For a system that so greatly relies on a supposed literal interpretation, great damage is done not only to biblical theology, but to innumerable passages that highlight the uniting of Jews and Gentiles in Christ.  The passage above from Ephesians is one such passage.

Just prior to it, in Ephesians 1:1 – 2:10, the Apostle Paul had just outlined God’s plan of redemption “before the foundation of the world” which includes both Jew and Gentile, as Paul, being a Jew, is writing to a Church of Christians, which was likely comprised of both Jew and Gentile.  Therefore, his use of “we” and “us” is inclusive of all believers in Christ.  However, in Ephesians 2:11 he makes a new distinction and now shifts his focus specifically to the Gentiles.  His purpose for doing so seems to be what is missed in the classic dispensational system, primarily a lack of understanding that although national Israel, meaning those born of the flesh of Abraham, were a people chosen by God (Deut. 7:6-7), through whom Christ would come (Galatians 3:16), salvation is not inclusive of them, nor is it exclusive of non-Jews, but rather it is “children of the promise” (Romans 9:8), namely God’s elect, who will be saved.

The Apostle Paul wrote of God’s plan of redemption in great detail in his Roman epistle and Romans 9-11 specifically addresses the misconception that somehow race or ethnicity was a determining factor of salvation.  Let us not be guilty of this same error, but let us realize that God’s purpose of election throughout history is through His sovereign grace alone and that it is He that chooses to show mercy to whom He wills.  Without the fulfillment of His plan in this manner, through predestination and election, salvation would have never come to the Gentiles.  All those who repent and bow the knee to Jesus in faith and declare Him as their Lord and Savior will be saved joining the saints of old, the saints of present, and those soon to come into the fold as one body in Christ Jesus, His Bride – The Church.

The Love of the Lord

By Charles Spurgeon

Hosea 3:1 KJV “…The love of the Lord….”

Believer, look back through all thine experience, and think of the way whereby the Lord thy God has led thee in the wilderness, and how He hath fed and clothed thee every day – how He hath borne with thine ill manners – how He hath put up with all thy murmurings, and all thy longings after the flesh – pots of Egypt – how He has opened the rock to supply thee, and fed thee with manna that came down from heaven.  Think of how His grace has been sufficient for thee in all thy troubles – how His blood has been a pardon to thee in all thy sins – how His rod and staff have comforted thee.  When thou hast thus looked back upon the love of the Lord, then let faith survey His love in the future, for remember that Christ’s covenant and blood have something more in them than the past.  He who has loved thee and pardoned thee, shall never cease to love and pardon.  He is Alpha, and He shall be Omega also: He is first and He shall be last. 

Therefore, bethink thee, when thou shalt pass through the valley of the shadow of death, thou needest fear no evil, for He is with thee.  When thou shalt stand in the cold floods of Jordan, thou needest not fear, for death cannot separate thee from His love; and when thou shalt come into the mysteries of eternity thou needest not tremble, For I am persuaded, that neither death; nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Now, soul, is not thy love refreshed?  Does not this make thee love Jesus?  Doth not a flight through illimitable plains of the ether of love inflame thy heart and compel thee to delight thyself in the Lord thy God?  Surely as we meditate on the love of the Lord, our hearts burn within us, and we long to love Him more.