Chapter 9: Regeneration
by Brian Currie, N Ireland.
The word, “regeneration” occurs twice only in the Bible. These two references are as follows:
- Matt.19.28, “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.”
- Tit.3.5, “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 …”.
In Matthew’s gospel the subject is National; it has to do with Creation and is in the Future.
In Paul’s letter to Titus it is Personal; it has to do with Christians and is in the Present.
There are three terms that, while they are closely related, must be distinguished. These are “quickening”; “born again”; and, the subject of this chapter, “regeneration”.
The expressions, “quicken”, “quickeneth”, “quickening”, and “quickened”, occur 26 times in the Bible, 14 in the Old Testament and 12 in the New Testament. The main idea in Quickening is the Impartation of Divine Life. For this to happen all of Divine power, Divine Persons and Divine revelation are involved.
Of the Old Testament occurrences, 11 are in Psalm 119. Thus there is a close link between quickening and the Word of God, which is the major subject of that Psalm.
Not only is the Word of God involved, but the Spirit of God is involved also. Thus we read, “It is the Spirit that quickeneth …” Jn.6.63.
Note that the Son of God is involved, Jn.5.21, “For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom He will.”
Many are the references which prove that the Father Himself is involved. Eph.2.1, “And you hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;” Eph.2.5, “Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ …”; Col.2.13, “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath He [God] quickened together with Him, [Christ] having forgiven you all trespasses”.
These references also prove the truth of what has been stated, that quickening has to do with impartation of life. Rom.4.17 and 8.11, relating to resurrection, also underline this truth. It is also seen in the agricultural realm, 1 Cor.15.36, and in relation to the Lord Jesus, 1 Pet.3.18.
Scriptural illustrations may be found in the three occasions when the Lord Jesus raised people who had died. One was a girl, another a boy and the third a man. Two were young but Lazarus was a mature man. We learn neither gender nor age matters because all need quickening. The girl was just dead, the boy was on his way to the burial and Lazarus was dead 4 days and was stinking. We learn that the depth to which a person has sunk in sin, does not matter - He can quicken all.
Now we think of the expression, “born again” which implies Initiation To The Family.
It is when we are born naturally that we become part of our father’s family. So it is spiritually. It is only when we are “born again” that we enter the family of God. This does not come about by baptism, natural family ties, religious observances or anything else done by or on a person by themselves or any other human. New birth is from God. Hence the words of the Lord Jesus to Nicodemus, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God … Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again” Jn.3.3,7.
John uses this word, “again” in three other places in his gospel. These are:
- 3.31, “He that cometh from above is above all”
- 19.11, “Thou couldest have no power at all against Me, except it were given thee from above”
- 19.23, “ ... the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout”.
Thus the new birth is a work of God since it comes from above. John confirms this in his first epistle, where seven times he reminds us that we are born of God or born of Him. The reader may refer to 2.29; 3.9; 4.7; 5.1, 4, 18. We are never said to be born of Christ.
We learn from 1 Pet.1.23 that God using His word, produces it. “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” The prepositions in this verse are vital if we wish to understand it correctly. Let us read the verse literally. “Having been born again, not out of [ek] corruptible seed, but incorruptible, through [dia] the Word of God living and abiding forever.” Thus the word of God is the instrument through which the incorruptible seed of Divine life is imparted to a believing soul.
A Scriptural illustration may be seen in the story of Naaman in 2 Kings chapter 5, where we read in v.14, “… his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child…”.
We come to the subject of this chapter, Regeneration, which means the Introduction Of A New State.
This will be expounded as we continue, but a Biblical illustration may be seen in the demoniac of Gadara. He met the Lord Jesus and was totally changed, being introduced to an entirely new state of things. Thus we find him, “sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind” Lk.8.35. There was a change in his Attire, he was “clothed”; there was a change in his Attitude, he was “in his right mind”; there was a change in his Abode, he was “sitting at the feet of Jesus; and there was a change in his Appreciation, he was at the “feet of Jesus”.
We have noted that the subject of Regeneration has two aspects. These are:
National, to do with Creation and is in the Future.
This is Matt.19.28, “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.”
Personal to do with Christians and is in the Present.
This is Titus 3.5, “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 …”.
The first aspect, as recorded by Matthew, has to do with the nation of Israel and is prophetic. At the rapture of the church, the restraining influence, which has been holding back the onward advance of lawlessness, will be removed and subsequently the world will be plunged into dreadful days of natural disasters such as famines and earthquakes; social anarchy; huge international political problems, with wars, both civil and international, all of these on an unprecedented scale.
When the Saviour comes as King, He will put down all His enemies, which will bring about a tremendous renovation and He will introduce an entirely new state of things.
Revelation chapter 19 informs us that He will come from heaven on a white horse, the symbol of Royalty, and will deal with those who will be gathered around Jerusalem to effect its destruction. Satan’s two men, the beast and the false prophet, will be “cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone” v.20, and all who followed them will be slain.
Then the King will deal with Satan. He will be incarcerated for the 1,000 year period of The Lord’s millennial reign, see Rev.20.1-3.
Some dispute the literalness of the 1,000 years period and others suggest it refers to the present day in which we live. However, we note the following details:
- This binding does not take place until the King comes, thus it cannot be during this age;
- The times mentioned in the Revelation are literal;
- In the Revelation the symbol given for a year is “time”. We read in 12.14, that Israel “is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time”;
- In the New Testament there are 2 words for ‘year’, and both are used in the Revelation. The first is in 9.15, “the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men.” This word occurs 14 times in the New Testament and often implies a period of time. For example, the first reference is in Lk.4.19, “the acceptable year of the Lord”. However, the word used in Rev.20.2,3,4,5,6,7, is first used in Matt.9.20, “a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years”.
Note John’s usage. Jn.2.20, “Forty and six years was this temple in building…”; 5.5, “a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years…”; 8.57, “Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?”. These examples prove indisputably that the reference here is to real and definite years.
Alteration - What Will Take Place In This Great Regeneration?
Quite a number of spheres will be affected, both regarding Israel nationally and mankind generally. The following Scriptural references indicate the immensity of the changes, which will take place in at least seven different aspects.
- Jer.31.33, 34, “But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put My law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be My people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
- Isa.11.9, “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.”
- Hab.2.14, “the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.”
- Isa.40.4,5, “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.”
- Zech.14.4,10 “His feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south ... All the land shall be turned as a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem”.
Botanically - The Edenic conditions will return:
- Isa.35.1,2, “The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing:”
- Ps.72.16, “There shall be an handful of corn in the earth upon the top of the mountains; the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon”.
- Isa.11.6-8, “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den.”
- Ezek.47.8, 9, “These waters issue out toward the east country, and go down into the desert, and go into the sea: which being brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be healed. And it shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed; and every thing shall live whither the river cometh.”
- Zech.14.6,7, “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the light shall not be clear, nor dark: But it shall be one day which shall be known to the LORD, not day, nor night: but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light.”
- Zech.14.11, “…men shall dwell in it, and there shall be no more utter destruction; but Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited.”
- Isa.2.4, “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”
- Mic.4.3,4, “He shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts hath spoken it.”
- Deut.28.13, “… the LORD shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath”.
We appreciate all these changes and anticipate these days with hearts full of joy and devotion, because there will be the vindication of the Lord Jesus, here on earth where He was rejected.
Note the contrasts between His position when rejected on earth and during these days of Millennial glory.
|Swaddling bands||Shrouded in glory:|
|A donkey||A white horse:|
|He shed tears||Eyes "as a flame of fire":|
|A purple robe||Royal robes:|
|A crown of thorns||Many diadems:|
|A reed of mockery||A rod of iron:|
|A few forsaking disciples||The armies of heaven:|
|His blood||The blood of His enemies:|
|Above Him it was "King of the Jews"||On His thigh, "KING OF KINGS & LORD OF LORDS"|
|Men gathered to condemn Him||They gather for Him to condemn them:|
|On the cross He was alone||With all the heavenly host.|
Many Christians have largely neglected the Epistle of Paul to Titus. Yet within the compass of these 46 verses we have a large area of doctrinal truth. In fact, there are three great doctrinal passages in the epistle, as follows.
- 1.1-3. Here we find the great truths of election; events before the world began; faith; and preaching. It is a cameo of the letter to the Ephesians
- 2.11-14. These verses present grace coming; the present life changed; the second coming of the Lord Jesus. It is a cameo of 1 Thessalonians
- 3.4-7. In this section we are taught about the depravity of man; justification by grace; we are heirs; and we have a hope. It is a cameo of Paul’s epistle to the Romans.
It is our intention to focus just now on chapter 3 especially vv.1-7 which bring before us the subject of Regeneration as it affects Christians in the present. These verses may be understood by asking and answering three questions:
- Why was regeneration necessary? - The answer is in v.3
- How did regeneration come about? - The answer is in vv.4-6
- What difference did regeneration make? - The answer is in vv.1, 2 as it relates to our Present Responsibility, and in v.7 as it relates to our Future Destiny.
Why Was Regeneration Necessary?
3.3, “For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.”
Paul includes himself in this description by the use of ‘we’ but he is quick to indicate that this manner of life had all changed and was no longer the way he nor they, lived. Thus he uses the imperfect tense, as he writes, “we … were”.
A seven-fold charge is listed against us and, as is usual in Biblical numerics, seven is divided into 3 + 4, or 4 + 3. Seven being the number of completeness, this shows the complete depravity of our spiritual state, prior to regeneration.
The first three are inward and the second four are outward. This is the order because the major problem with unregenerate mankind is inward. This was the conclusion of God in Ps.14.1, “They are corrupt, they have done abominable works …”. Notice it commences with what they ‘are’, not what they ‘do’. “They are corrupt” refers to the inward state and as a result we read of what they do, “they have done abominable works …”. This inward problem cannot be overcome by any outward panacea. Man’s difficulty cannot be remedied by outward things like religious ordinances such as baptism or partaking of ‘Holy Communion’; nor by works of kindness or philanthropy; nor by the provision of better housing, employment or social benefits. Nothing outward can touch the inward problem. Thus the inward needs to addressed before the outward can be corrected.
- Foolish. This means senseless, no ability to discern things spiritual, and relates to the Mind. The word is also rendered “foolish” in Gal.3.1, 3; 1 Tim.6.9; “fools” in Lk.24.25 and “unwise” in Rom.1.14. We may have been proud of our intellect and powers of reasoning in many spheres of life, but not in spiritual matters.
- Disobedient. This is the opposite of being persuaded and this attitude left us hard and unyielding. This relates to the Heart. The only other usages of the word as an adjective are Lk.1.17; Acts 26.19; Rom.1.30; 2 Tim.3.2; Tit.1.16.
- Deceived. This verb is a Present Participle in the Passive Voice, which means we were being deceived. It has the idea of being led astray and relates to the Will. In other passages it is variously translated as, for example, Matt.18.2, “gone astray”; Heb.5.2, “out of the way”; 11.38, “wandered”.
Thus inwardly my Mind, Heart and Will were all affected by sin. This led to problems:
- Serving divers lusts and pleasures.
Serving. The Present Participle in the Active Voice means that, when unsaved, we constantly pursued this path. This is the word with which many Christians have become familiar, ‘doulos’, and means we served as slaves. Regardless of what unsaved people think, they are not free. What is it they serve?
Divers lusts. Note here and also with “pleasures”, both are plural. This means every sort and type of depraved and longed for cravings and desires. It occurs some 38 times as a noun in the New Testament. The only times it is translated other than “lust(s)” are Lk.22.15, Phil.1.23, 1 Thess.2.17, “desire”; and Rom.7.8, Col.3.5, 1 Thess.4.5, “concupisence”. “pleasures”. The reference is to every sort of natural and sensual desires. The word is only found elsewhere in Lk.8.14, 2 Pet.2.13, ‘pleasure(s)’; and Jms.4.1, 3, “lusts”.
- Living in malice and envy
Living. This is another Present Participle in the Active Voice, again meaning this way of life was constantly followed.
Malice. This carries the meaning of rank badness, with a vicious hardheartedness that has a desire to injure others. It is used in the New Testament as follows. Matt.6.34, “evil”; Acts 8.22, “wickedness”; Rom.1.29; 2 Pet.2.16, “maliciousness”; 1 Cor.5.8, 14.20; Eph.4.31; Col.3.8; 2 Pet.2.1, “malice”; and Jms.1.21, “naughtiness”.
Envy. The nine references in the New Testament all are translated, ‘envy’. The word means to want the very thing another person has. It is stronger than jealousy which wants something similar to another. “Envy” is displeased when another person does well and prospers. An envious person would not, “Rejoice with them that do rejoice …” Rom.12.15.
- Hateful. This is the only mention of the word in the New Testament and carries the meaning of being detestable or odious. Probably it means what we were to others.
- And hating one another. The 42 references all carry the thought of being detested. It is another Present Participle in the Active Voice. The implication is that there is no real deep and lasting love and friendship among the unsaved.
How Did Regeneration Come About?
Vv.4-6, “But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, 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; Which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour.”
Just as there was a seven-fold charge against us, we now read of a seven-fold moving of God, showing the completeness of our salvation.
We note that this ‘appeared’. This word, as a verb, is only elsewhere in Lk.1.79, “To give light”; Acts 27.20, “appeared” and in this epistle at 2.11, “hath appeared”. The meaning is that it shone forth. It was formerly hidden but now made manifest. This glorious message of regeneration through the death of the Lord Jesus was not in the Old Testament but is the subject of New Testament revelation. We search in vain to find this, or any other doctrine related to the church, in the Old Testament. We also must appreciate that regeneration did not come from within man. We did not deserve it nor could we merit it and so God had to move. For this reason in the seven-fold movement of God we read of the Trinity – v.4, “God”; v.5, “the Holy Ghost”; v.6, “Jesus Christ”.
These seven actions are:
- Kindness. This is variously translated as, “goodness”, Rom.2.4; 11:22; “good”, Rom.3.12; “kindness” 2 Cor.6.6; Eph.2.7; Col.3.12; and “gentleness”, Gal.5.22. It is kindness or goodness that shows itself in the life by works of this character. It can be summarised as “goodness in action”, W. E. Vine.
- Love. This is our word ‘philanthropy’ which here means God’s love of man. This cannot be explained but is to be enjoyed. It obviously stands in great contrast to the description of “hateful and hating one another”. The One who loved us was “God our Saviour”. This is characteristic of the Pastoral Epistles and reveals the power and greatness of the One who saves. Salvation is a task far beyond the ability of any man or company of men.
It is now further explained and lest we make any mistake, we are told how it did not come about and how it did come about. That is, it is both negatively and positively taught as seen in the expression in v.5, “Not ... but”. 3.5, “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;”
The first part of the verse is teaching us the vital truth that man’s works have no part to play in his salvation. It literally reads, “not out of [ek] works in [en] righteousness.” The source is not works and the sphere is not “righteousness”. God does not save us because of what we have done or will do; our good works do not influence God in His dealings with individuals. In this great matter our effort is futile and worthless. This is constantly underlined in Paul’s writings, as may be gleaned by reference to the following representative Scriptures. Rom.3.28, 4.5; Gal.2.16; Eph.2.8, 9; and 2 Tim.1.9.
- His mercy. This is the origin of this great blessing – it comes from Him and as a result of His mercy. Mercy “is the outward manifestation of pity; it assumes need on the part of him who receives it, and resources adequate to meet the need on the part of him who shows it”, W. E. Vine. It is God’s pity towards the afflicted with the desire and ability to help. We could visit some hospital ward and see the patients in suffering. Our hearts may go out to them in pity but we do not have the wherewithal to meet the need. We praise His name that He had the ability to accomplish what His pity prompted.
- He saved us. This is what He accomplished, the totality of salvation. The aorist tense indicates that there was a point when this happened and at that time the event was complete in itself. Salvation is not a process; it is instantaneous the moment a sinner puts faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as his Saviour. It does not say, “He helped us.” He did it all.
We have seen above that we were wrong inwardly and outwardly. Therefore two things are required.
- For the Outward there is Washing
- For the Inward there is Renewing.
Both of these happen at Conversion.
- Washing of regeneration. This is in a sense External and was to remove all defilement and sin. In John chapter 13 the Lord Jesus was about to wash the disciples feet and Peter objected. When the Lord explained to him the consequences of not having his feet washed Peter wanted to be washed all over. In v.10 we read, “Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit …”. This seems a strange expression until we note that two different words for ‘wash’ have been used. The first word means to bathe, to wash all over. The second word means to wash part of the body and is used in John chapter 13 in vv.5,6,8,10,12,14. Thus there is a bathing that does not need to be repeated and there is a partial washing, of the feet, which requires repetition. This initial washing is called here, in Titus chapter 3, the “washing of regeneration”.
Perhaps an illustration will help our understanding. In the Old Testament the priests were used to various washings. However, there were two that were vital to their service. At their consecration we read in Lev.8.6, “And Moses brought Aaron near, and his sons, and bathed them with water” J.N.D. This was a one off event and was done on them by Moses who was acting for God. However when they would approach to serve they had to have constant recourse to the laver to wash their hands and feet. This they did for themselves. The former is Titus chapter 3 and the latter is John chapter 13.
Note Heb.10.22, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.” Some suggest that this is a literal washing and refers to baptism. If we take the “body” literally, then we must take the “hearts sprinkled” literally also. This is another reference to “the washing of regeneration”. Another Scripture, which links closely here, is Jn.3.5, “… Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God”.
For the sake of completeness we ought to mention that 1 Cor.6.11 is different. The word there means ‘to wash off or away’, and as used in the Middle Voice it means ‘to wash oneself’. As expounded by W. E. Vine it, “indicates that the converts at Corinth, by their obedience to the faith, voluntarily gave testimony to the complete spiritual change Divinely wrought in them.”
- And renewing of the Holy Ghost. This is Internal and involves a complete renovation, a complete change for the better. As defined earlier it is the introduction of a completely new state. The Holy Ghost, Who uses the Word of God to reach the repentant and believing sinner, brings about this renewing.
The “washing” and “renewing” are seen in the one verse in 2 Cor.5.17, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; (this is Washing) behold, all things are become new” (this is Renewing).
- He shed on us abundantly. This verb, in the aorist tense, does not permit an ongoing process. Just as v.5 “saved” is complete and not a process, so this shedding which happened only once and is explained by the use of the same expression in Acts 2.33, “having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, He hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.” It is the same word as is used for the pouring out of the vials in Revelation chapter 16.
On the day of Pentecost, Acts chapter 2, the Lord Jesus poured out the Holy Ghost in rich profusion and He has never been recalled. Thus we need not expect any further outpouring in our day. The Holy Ghost is a Divine Person, not an influence. We cannot conceive of part of this Person being poured out. On that great day He was poured out totally and, said the Lord Jesus, “… He may abide with you for ever” Jn.14.16. As long as the church is here, He will be here also.
Some may point to the same word being used in Acts 10.45 as evidence that there is an ongoing out-pouring of the Holy Ghost, “… on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.” It is to be noted that the tense here is not as in Acts 2.33. There it is an aorist, pointing to an action complete at that time. In Acts 10.45 it is the perfect tense meaning that the action is viewed as having been completed in the past, but has present and ongoing effects. Thus in Acts chapter10 the Gentiles came into the good of that which was done in Acts chapter 2. There has not been a fresh outpouring of the Holy Ghost since Acts chapter 2. When a person becomes a Christian through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, at that moment they come into the good of the event described in Acts chapter 2.
What Difference Did Regeneration Make?
The answer is in 3.1,2 with respect to our Present Responsibility, and in v.7 with respect to our Future Destiny.
3.1,2 - Present Responsibility
“Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, [but] gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men.”
Since we belong to a new order of things, changes are expected. In these verses two are highlighted.
- 3.1 - No Anarchy Politically.
- 3.2 - No Antagonism Socially.
3.1 - No Anarchy Politically
- Put them in mind. This is an apostolic command from Paul to Titus. He is to continually and constantly remind the believers of this responsibility.
- To be subject. They, and so we, are to submit or obey as the troops would their military leadership. It has been translated twice as “obedient” already in the epistle in 2.5,9. It is used by Paul in the same context in Rom.13.1 “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers.”
- To obey magistrates. The only other mentions of this word are in the book of the Acts – 5.29,32, “obey” and 27.21, “have hearkened”.
The teaching is practical for us. Unless such subjection hinders our obedience to the Word of God, we are to be obedient to every kind of ruler whether national or local. It matters not whether we like the people concerned, agree with the laws passed or even find them unfair. We submit and pay our local and national taxes, and live life as quietly as possible.
The constant reminder is required because when laws are passed which we do not like we could soon forget our position and become involved politically. In 1 Tim.2.1,2, we are taught that our only point of contact with the murky world of politics is in prayer, “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” Note that we do not pray that our particular brand of politics will prevail, but we do pray that those in authority will so act that we may live and so serve God quietly and peaceably.
In the New Testament there are high incentives for us to be in subjection to the “powers that be”. Here it is Regeneration: In Rom.13.1, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers” is based on Justification: In 1 Pet.2.13, “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake” it has as its motivation the subject of Redemption.
3.2 - No Antagonism Socially
- To speak evil. Literally means to blaspheme, to injure by speech, to rail or to revile. The classic examples are to be found at the trial of the Lord Jesus and when He hung on the cross. Matt.26.65, “… He hath spoken blasphemy”; 27.39, “they that passed by reviled Him …” The word has been used already in the epistle in 2.5, “… that the Word of God be not blasphemed”. Such uncouth language and behaviour has no part in the life of those who have entered into this new state of regeneration.
- No brawlers. The only other mention of this word in the New Testament is in relation to overseers in 1 Tim.3.3, “… not a brawler …” It means we are not always quarrelsome, not fighting or given to contention.
Some people have the unhappy knack of being able to cause trouble anywhere and over nothing. If we are always objecting about paltry and incidental things, when a serious matter arises our objection will scarcely be considered.
Now we are taught that it is not all negative, what we should not do, but there is the positive side.
- Gentle. This occurs five times in the N.T. In Jms.3.17 and 1 Pet.2.18 it is also rendered “gentle”; in 1 Tim.3.3, “patient” and in Phil.4.5, “moderation”. It means to be very reasonable, behave in a seemly way, “not insisting on the letter of the law”, W. E. Vine. This person will neither be biased nor rash in coming to a conclusion, but will weigh all the facts in a reasonable manner. In personal matters this person will suffer the wrong rather than brawl. There will be no insistence on an apology nor will there be threats if one is not forthcoming.
- Shewing all meekness. This person will not be haughty and self-assertive. This is a feature of the Lord Jesus, 2 Cor.10.1, and is part of the “fruit of the Spirit”, Gal.5.23. In the world such a characteristic is interpreted as weakness and so they send employees on self-assertive courses. This is far from the standard God desires from His people. Rather than being weakness, meekness is really power under control.
- Unto all men. This manner of living is to be displayed to “all men” - not just to believers. It is all meekness to all men. What a standard! Some can be very delightful on the Lord’s Day when at the meetings and very difficult on Monday when in business. Such duplicity is not acceptable Christian behaviour.
3.7 - Future Destiny
- Being justified by His grace. The subject of justification has been dealt with in chapter 4 of this book, so the subject needs very little comment here. Just notice that it is here “being justified by [ek, out of] His grace”. This brings to our attention the Prompting of Justification. In Rom.5.1, we read, “being justified by [ek, out of] faith” - the Principle of Justification. Again in Rom.5.9, we read, “being now justified by [en, in virtue of] His blood” - the Power of Justification;
- Heirs according to the hope of eternal life. When Paul writes about eternal life he deems it to be in the future. Whereas with John it is present. See, for example, Jn.3.15 and 10.28. John is teaching us that we can presently enjoy that which Paul says we shall enter into fully in eternity. With the “hope of eternal life” here linked with heirship the thought is probably linked with our inheritance. The glory of the thought sometimes overwhelms us, that we are “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ” Rom.8.17. Again Paul teaches us that “… thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ” Gal.4.7. Peter brings the inheritance into focus when he writes in 1 Pet.1.4, that we have “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you.”
- ‘incorruptible’ - it is not subject to Death and suggests Immortality
- ‘undefiled’ - it is not subject to Defect and suggests Purity
- ‘fadeth not away’ - it is not subject to Decay and suggests Beauty
- ‘reserved in heaven’ - it is not subject to Dissolution and suggests Certainty.
This should cause thanksgiving to arise to God from our worshipping hearts as it did with Paul when he wrote, “Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light” Col.1.12.
May the subject of Regeneration touch our lives practically that we may reflect more of the Lord Jesus until we meet Him in the air.