In the last post, we saw that regeneration is a sovereign act of God. In today’s post, we will look at our part in salvation.
It is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. Regeneration is a gift from God. Faith, also, is a gift from God. Ephesians 2:8 tells us that “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” What is the gift of God? Faith; the ability to believe. Oh, how great is the love of God that when we were dead in our sins and trespasses, He took our dead spirit and made it alive through the power of His Holy Spirit. He had to give us this gift, because of our dead spirit and our bondage to sin.
Because of the fall, man is unable, of himself, to believe in the gospel. The sinner is dead, blind, and deaf to the things of God; his heart is deceitful and desperately corrupt. His will is not free, it is in bondage to his evil nature; therefore, he will not–indeed he cannot–choose good over evil in the spiritual realm. Consequently, it takes regeneration by which the Spirit makes the sinner alive and gives him a new nature. Faith is not something man contributes to salvation but is itself a part of God’s gift of salvation–it is God’s gift to the sinner, not the sinner’s gift to God, for what could sinful man offer to a perfect and holy God?
Faith is made up of three parts, each of which build on the other. First is knowledge. It is necessary that we have some knowledge about who Jesus is and what He has done for us. But knowledge is not enough. Second, we need to be in agreement with the facts because there are many who know the facts and still rebel against them. Satan himself knows the facts, but does not agree with them. Knowledge and agreement are not enough. True faith comes when we know the facts, agree with them, and personally trust in them. Trust is the third part of saving faith.
Nicodemus knew the facts and even agreed with them. He even said of Jesus, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Nicodemus had evaluated the facts of the situation, including Jesus’ teaching and remarkable miracles and had drawn the correct conclusion from those facts: Jesus was a teacher sent from God. But did Nicodemus have saving faith? No, because he had not believed and put his trust in Jesus. Jesus told him that regeneration must occur first (you must be born again) and then that he must believe (as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.)
It’s important to understand the context by reading the passage in Numbers. Moses lifted up the serpent on a wooden pole and all a person had to do to live was to look at the bronze serpent. Why? Was there something magical about the bronze serpent? No. What was important was their belief in God. The people knew what God said (look at the bronze serpent on the pole and live), the people agreed that God had said it (Moses prayed to God and God answered Moses), but unless the people were willing to personally trust what God had said by actually looking at the serpent, they would die.
The Gospel is the same. Many people know the facts about Jesus and even agree that they are historically accurate, but what keeps them from salvation?
Personal trust. They get the first 2 down just fine, but never make it to the point of trust because regeneration has not taken place in their hearts and the gift of faith has not been given to them.
In the next post, Part 3, we will pull all of these things together before going on to the next passage in John, which contains the most quoted verse of all time.