Genuine Regeneration (Palingenesis)

Genuine Regeneration
Robert Wurtz II

But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me. Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come. (Acts 26:16–22 KJV)

I have chosen to quote this entire passage in context in order to demonstrate once again Paul’s understanding of his own commission. This plain account dates to around 59 CE, 7 years before his martyrdom under Nero. He has been ministering for some 25 years. According to his testimony to Agrippa, the Lord Jesus told him on the road to Demascus, “I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness.” These are two things. A minister conveys truth about God’s word; a witness gives an account of personal experience. He was sent to two groups: his people (the Jews), and the non-Jews (nations or Gentiles). He was to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. 

Paul then tells us that he was not disobedient to the heavenly vision. This implies that Paul understood his commission to be a mandate. He then states that he shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles. The Greek word for “showed” is apaggelloœ and could be translated “declared.” The imperfect active verb tense signifies that he “kept on declaring,” this message. He did not relent. He did not come up with something “new and improved.” What was it? That they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. These are three things: 

1.Change your mind — gladly receiving the word. This mean a person justifies God and not themselves (Luke 7:29). 

2. This change of mind must result in a “turning” or a change of life direction. The Greek word for “turn” could be translated as “return” or “convert.” We must return to God. This is a prerequisite for both forgiveness of sins and receiving the Holy Spirit (Acts 3:19). God does not forgive and pour His Spirit upon rebels whilst they remain on the run. 

3. Do works worthy of repentance. This implies verifiable evidence. The Jews confessed their sins openly and were baptized of John. (Matthew 3:6; Mark 1:5) The first Ephesians were willing to be baptized by immersion twice in order to do things right. (Acts 19:5) Other Ephesian converts burned whole fortunes in curious arts. (Acts 19:19)   

You will recognize all of this as the prepatory message of John the Baptist. In fact, in Lucan theology (Luke and Acts) their is a heavy emphasis on John the Baptist as a prophet as well as his message. It is not the whole message, but it is an essential part of it. Paul “kept on declaring” it. Why? Because it is impossible to go forward in God until repentance genuinely takes place. There is no use in pretending. God knows when our heart is right towards Him. Man can be fooled, but God cannot. Imagine the rich young ruler going on with God without selling all that he had. It could never happen. Why? Because he was unwilling to do what he was required. Likewise, God puts His hand on the controversy between us and Him and we must do what He says.

A Personal Testimony

There is a flow to the Bible that is important to recognize. It moves from the beginning in Genesis all the way to the end in Revelation. No matter who is reading it, we are all somewhere in that flow. As a child I picked up the Bible to read it for the first time. I began with the New Testament Gospel of Matthew. This seemed to be the best place to start. Early on I was brought up to speed concerning a whole series of people who lived in the Old Testament. Then came a series of other people who contributed to the flow.

For the sake of simplicity I came to John the Baptist. This man preached, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Reading those words I had a choice to make. I could do one of three things:

* Believe the message and repent.
* Disobey the message, but keep reading.
* Disobey the message and put the Bible down.

I then came to the teachings of Jesus and what is typically known as The Sermon on the Mount. Here I discovered exactly how God expects people to live. I immediately knew that the words I was reading were the standard upon which I would someday be judged. I can’t explain how I knew that, I can only say that the words struck my conscience in such a way that I knew they were ultimate truth. Three things happened:

* I realized I had done a great many things that were wrong according to Jesus.
* I became conscious of a whole new standard of living that would henceforth influence my actions.
* I tried to some degree to line up with what Jesus said. 

As I continued through the Gospels I read of people Jesus encountered and how they responded to Him. Some were anxious to follow and obey; some went away sorrowful because they were not willing to do what He asked. For the next several years I would halt in a state similar to the Rich Young Ruler. As described before I would disobey the message and put the Bible down.

Over time God used various measures to get me back into the flow again. I would go to church, listen to Christian radio, etc. However, He always brought me back to the last place I left off in the flow of His word. After some months of what the old timers called “a struggle of faith” I realized that I must fully surrender my life to Christ. I tried to go half way; it didn’t work. I tried to go 75%; it didn’t work. I tried to go 99% and that didn’t work either. I was stuck with God putting His hand on the controversy He had with me. It was my “One thing thou lackest, hangup.” 

In the meanwhile, I went to bed most nights saying the sinners prayer in case I died unexpectedly during the night. I knew I was a sinner, but was not willing to fully surrender to God. I kept up appearances. I came to church and said all the right things at the right times. I learned how to do it by watching other people. Pretty soon it seemed that I was being a Christian. However, I knew I was not going on with God. This bothered me greatly. So I picked the Bible up again.

As I read through all the verses God began dealing with me even stronger. He was working to bring me absolutely under His lordship. It took a while for this fact to sink in. Some people are resisting the Holy Spirit and think they can receive Him at the same time. It will never work. Once I learned this, going on with God was not a fuss. 

Regeneration in Two Verses

And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost. (Matthew 19:28; Titus 3:5 KJV)

The Greek word for regeneration is only used twice in the New Testament so we don’t have a lot to be confused with. Simply put, “the new birth of the world is to be fulfilled when Jesus sits on his throne of glory.” (A.T. Robertson) This can also be applied to spiritual new birth. A person is born again when the Son of Man (Jesus Christ) sits on the throne of the heart. Titus adds a simple word, “washing” to make washing of regeneration.” This is the Greek word for the laver that existed outside the Tabernacle where the priests were to wash before entering the sanctuary; that is, the earthly Temple of God. This is a picture of baptism; not in water, but in the Holy Spirit. When we are baptized by the Holy Spirit into His one body, we “enter” the Temple — becoming members of that Temple.  This cannot happen without washing. This cannot happen without Christ sitting in the throne of the person’s heart.

Resetting The Message  

On many devices there is a reset button that puts the machine or computer back to its factory default settings. In 2015, we must allow God to perform a “reset” and return the churches of God back to authentic, genuine, regeneration. Many who have been “counseled through” a salvation experience have never known the transforming power of regeneration. 

Without genuine repentance in which a person can show evidence of having turned to God — there can be no regeneration. We have to come through the laver. We can’t come into the Temple through a side door. In fact, multitudes have simply prayed a little prayer and have been told they are “saved.” All that was in view was having sins forgiven. As a consequence they are forced to regard many aspects of our inheritance such as receiving the Holy Spirit as some kind of special “add on” blessing rather than God’s norm.Many stop at what they believe is forgiveness and do not go on. We must determine to allow God to change our minds and our theologies if necessary — to get us back to authentic regeneration. 

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