Monday, March 15, 2010

The Work of the Holy Spirit - Regeneration

After discussion who the Holy Spirit is and what He does, the next five sermons focused in on specific works of the Holy Spirit. These are not meant to be an exhaustive list or exhaustive sermons on each topic. The list of the work of the Holy Spirit in each believer's life would be a long list indeed, and each topic could be expanded more than what could be covered in a 30 minute sermon. Nevertheless, this session deals with Spirit's work of regeneration. I based the sermon on Titus 3:3-7 and here is my basic outline.

I. The Holy Spirit shows us we need a Savior (3)
          A. Sins of a person nature/Sins of the inner person
          B. Sins of the outer life/Sins of the outer person

II. The Holy Spirit is how God saves us (4-6)
        A. Not through good works but through grace & mercy (4-5a,7)
        B. Through the washing of the Holy Spirit (5b)
                    1. Washing produces regeneration
                    2. Washing produces renewal
                    3. The washing is complete (6)

III. The Holy Spirit is how God adopts us (7)
          A. Adoption begins with justification
          B. Adoption makes us heirs
          C. Adoption gives hope

To begin with, the Spirit shows us we need a Savior. This the first step of the Spirit's work of regeneration. He point out the sins of an internal nature (foolish, disobedient, and deceived) and the sins of an external nature (enslaved to lusts and pleasures). The sins of internal nature could be considered mental or intellectual. It deals in the realm of the mind, like disbelief and deceived. The sins of the external nature are summed up in the word for "pleasures" used here. It indicates this is a hedonistic lifestyle that only is concerned with pleasing self, that is, in a physical way. Hence, the reference to the external nature or flesh.

The point is we all were either there at one point in our lives, or we live there now. In either case, as the previous post on the Holy Spirit discusses, it is the Spirit who convicts one of these sins. Paul begins his discourse on regeneration with the topic of conviction of sin.

Next, we see that when one trusts in the work of Christ on the cross, we are saved through the Spirit's work in our life. He saved us through his grace (getting something we do not deserve) and his mercy (not getting something we do deserve). One is not saved through religious activities, good works, or a sacrificial lifestyle. It is only through God's grace and mercy we are save. Paul states this in an interesting way and enlightens us of the Spirit's work in salvation.

The phrase Paul uses "by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit" is much debated. "Washing" automatically brings to mind for many the act of baptism. But first of all, Paul has JUST SAID that it was not through any work we do but through God's grace and mercy alone. Also, I am not sure why baptism, of any mode, could be considered "washing." Pouring, sprinkling, nor immersion could be describes as one washing. But because of the mistaken belief that baptism can cleanse one of sin, many mistake this as a description of the physical act of baptism. This is wrong and changes the whole tenor of what Paul is saying.

"Washing" here is solely the spiritual act the Spirit works in the believer's life. Through my study I have come to the conclusion that washing describes both regeneration and renewal. In other words, the phrase could read, "the washing of regeneration and the washing of renewing by the Holy Spirit." The Holy Spirit washes us and this washing results in both regeneration and renewal. The word used for regeneration is literally "to be born again." The word "Renewing" is literally the word "renovation." Once a person accepts Christ's sacrifice, the Spirit renovates the person and they are born anew.

Paul finishes his thought by saying that the washing the Spirit provides is complete. He says that God "pours put" the Holy Spirit "richly" on believers. The phrase "pouring out" is in the aorist tense, which connotes a historical act from the past completed in the past. Paul is speaking to believers so they had received the Holy Spirit in their past. They received Him and it was completed in the past.
When we accept Christ, the Holy Spirit is poured out on us. And He is poured out richly, generously. We are not given only part of the Holy Spirit only later to get more of Him. Paul tells us that God’s pouring out of the Holy Spirit is totally complete for each one who receives Him.

The final part of the Holy Spirit's regeneration has to do with adoption. Once regeneration occurs in the believer's life, which happens at the moment of surrender to Christ, that person is justified. The popular definition of justification is "declared innocent" and can be cleverly summed up by saying "being justified is being able to say that God sees me 'just if I'd' never sinned."

Adoption also makes us heirs to the promise God has given His children. In fact,
Romans 8:14-17 tells us that believers are co-heirs with Christ. This is an amazing truth which should produce hope and encouragement to every believe, which is the final point.

Because we are adopted and heirs, this means that we have a hope that the lost do not have. Hope in Scripture is not wishful thinking. Instead, it is expectant waiting. The two are diametrically different and must be understood. The believer, being regeneration is adopted and is now expectantly waiting for the time when he or she will spend eternity with their Creator and Savior.

The Spirit's power in our lives is powerful and amazing. This first lesson on the specific work of the Spirit in our lives should stir the believer to praise, worship, and service of the one who so lavishly loves us.