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. 

Passing Through Death

Passing Through Death
Robert Wurtz II

 And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel. And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim: And they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the LORD to anger. (Judges 2:10-12)


Our passage in verse 10 is a summary of the pattern of behavior that the children of Israel followed, more or less, going forward until the Babylonian captivity. It is quite pronounced during the early time of the Judges, but gets less predictable as time goes on. The trajectory of their expression of religion was steadily away from God. There were seasons when God’s glory was manifest, and then came along another generation that did not know the Lord or the works He had done in Israel. This was usually expressed in the personality of the king that was over the people. In other words, the king was a microcosm of the heart of the people. It could generally be thought true that if you knew who the king was you knew who the people were (godly or ungodly).


 Chomping at the bit


It seemed as though this generation in Judges 2 waited for the former generation to pass away so they could finally cast off the duties of the covenant that their fathers had made with the Lord. It should have come as no surprise, but God had already warned Joshua and the people earlier in Judges 2 that their sinful compromise would result in the gods of the land becoming a snare unto them. Specifically, they broke the commandment to enter into no alliance with the inhabitants of that land, viz., the Canaanites (see Exodus 23:32-33; Exodus 34:12-13, Exodus 34:15-16; Deut. 7:2.; Joshua 23:12). In Judges 2:2 the LORD reminded them that they did not  “destroy their altars:” taken verbatim from the command in Exodus 34:13 and Deut. 7:5. The words “and ye have not hearkened to my voice” in the same verse calls to mind Exodus 19:5. “Why have you done this” (מָה־זֹּאת, literally “what is this that ye have done” see K.D.) is a question pointing to the sparing of the Canaanites and the tolerating of their altars. For this reason God said he would not drive their enemies out from before them. The people wept, but it was too late to weep. (Judges 2:4) This is a great picture for us to consider and it is written for our admonition and learning upon whom the end of the age has come (1 Corinthians 10:1-11).


Missing steps


The new generation that “knew not the Lord nor the works that He had done in Israel” had obviously missed out on a few vital steps that the previous generation had experienced. First, Joshua’s generation witnessed the plagues of Egypt and the destruction of Pharaoh and his army by the Red Rea. None but Joshua and Caleb survived to cross over forty years later. The children of that generation watched God bring judgment on their parents in the Wilderness until every one of them had died. It took forty years to lay to rest this generation, hundreds of thousands if not millions of people. If we do the math it would mean that for 1 million people there would have been over sixty eight funerals a day, seven days a week. This generation saw the manna from heaven and the water from the rock. They were familiar with the fire and the cloud that led the children around in the wilderness of Zin. This generation witnessed the giving of the covenant and knew what the commandments were. They waited for their opportunity to pass over to the promised land. But for all their experiences, they lacked two vital things.


Two important steps


It may come as a surprise, but the generation that came up in the wilderness had not been circumcised on the eighth day according to the command of God in Lev. 12:3. In fact, they had not been circumcised at all. Joshua had to take on the project of circumcising all the people before they could cross over into the land (Joshua 5:5). To understand the severity of this sin, one only need look at the incident in Exodus 4:24-26 where God would have slain Moses over not circumcising his youngest son. This helps give a flavor of the level of rebellion the people that died in the wilderness were moving in. They didn’t obey God. they passed through the Red Sea and were baptized unto Moses, but they were content to allow him to do all the religious exercise. God only intended for Moses to the the leader of the people, not a representation of the people themselves. They needed to serve God in their own personal lives and in the lives of their families. They refused, insomuch that they didn’t even circumcise their sons on the eighth day as commanded. They passed through the Red sea, but they never passed through their own personal death. It is common sense to know that you can’t resurrect the living, you can only resurrect the dead. They were alive to themselves and dead towards God for forty years. They died, but they never died to all that they needed to. No death= no resurrection.




This side of Jordon


 You will notice the phrase in the Old Testament It is impossible to overstate the importance of passing through death. We might call it a “Jordon experience”. When God got ready to preach the Gospel it began with repentance and baptism in the Jordan. This is an expressive picture of death to our own life and will; to be quickened to God and His will. Death in scripture often denotes separation, not annihilation. They had to come to an end in death to themselves to be resurrected new in Christ. Some want to stay on “this side of Jordon”, but God tells us that those who do such things their sins will find them out. (Numbers 32) The results? God is not pleased and overthrows those who take such an approach. 


Cause the people to remember


Why did another generation that “knew not the Lord” come about in Israel? Certainly it is because that generation had never passed through the river in the same sense that their parents and ancestors had. They had never had a real experience in God where they could say “the old passed away and all became new”. They kept on being who they always were and tried to add a little religion to the bit. It will never do. We all must pass through death. God even gave instruction on how to make sure this was always performed and never forgotten. 



And Joshua said unto them, Pass over before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of Jordan, and take ye up every man of you a stone upon his shoulder, according unto the number of the tribes of the children of Israel: That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones? Then ye shall answer them, That the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off: and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever. (Joshua 4:6-7)

When a generation comes along that has not been through this process they become no different than the people that God cast out of the land to begin with. It is important to know that it takes more than a heritage to save us. We have to have the real experience for ourselves. 



The anger of God towards sinners

It is cliche today to say that God is “not mad at you”. Songs declare it and preachers preach it. But is it true? Nay verily, if you are in rebellion against God. Our passage reminds us and later Paul warns us that we can provoke God to anger by our refusal to repent and turn our lives over to Him. Consider what John, that great apostle of love, taught us:

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. (John 3:36 ESV)


Here the ESV corrects the KJV that renders the text “believes not”. “That obeyeth not” (ho apeithōn) could be translated, “He that is disobedient to the Son.” Jesus is the test of human life as Simeon said he would be (Luke 2:34.). This verb does not occur again in John’s Gospel. (A.T. Robertson) Disbelief is regarded in its active manifestation, disobedience. The verb πείθω means to persuade, to cause belief, to induce one to do something by persuading, and so runs into the meaning of to obey, properly as the result of persuasion (compare 1Peter 4:17; Romans 2:8; Romans 11:30, Romans 11:31). Obedience, however, includes faith. Compare Romans 1:5, “the obedience of faith”. (Vincent) Notice that they will not see life, but the wrath of God abides or remains on him. 


 The wrath of God (ὀργὴ τοῦ Θεοῦ). Both ὀργὴ and θυμός are used in the New Testament for wrath or anger, and without any commonly observed distinction. Ὁργη denotes a deeper and more permanent sentiment; a settled habit of mind; while θυμός is a more turbulent, more of a temporary agitation. Both words are used in the phrase wrath of God, which commonly denotes a distinct manifestation of God’s judgment (Romans 1:18; Romans 3:5; Romans 9:22; Romans 12:19). Ὁργὴ (not θυμός) also appears in the phrase the wrath to come (Matthew 3:7; Luke 3:7; 1Thess. 2:16, etc.). Compare wrath of the Lamb (Revelation 6:16). This wrath “abideth” or “remains” (μένει). The Greek verb is in the present tense. As the believer “hath” life, so the unbeliever “hath wrath” abiding on him/her. He/she lives continually in an economy which is alienated from God, and which, in itself, must be habitually the subject of God’s displeasure and indignation. (Vincent) We have this teaching in Romans 2:

 God will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality. (Romans 2:6-11)

Summary


The children of Israel are an example to the churches of God and to Christians around the world. The stories of their lives are written for our example and learning. Some generations served the Lord and others rose up that knew not the Lord and served the gods of the land. It is no different today. People try to come to Christ and without the cross being applied to them and they end up living under the wrath of God. Faith implies obedience. It suggests persuasion that what is said is true. Jesus gave a lot of warnings and the people had to decide. “Almost persuadest thou me” is not enough. We have to be persuaded into obedience. This is the test as to whether or not our faith is genuine. If we pass it we presently have eternal life, if we do not we presently have eternal wrath. 



     

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