A Defense of the Only Solution to Total Depravity
Regeneration is the answer to the problem of man`s depravity. Because of Adam`s sin man is counted as guilty before God. Man is not capable of doing what is spiritually good. Man has inherited corruption. It is therefore, necessary to take into account certain questions such as, what is regeneration. Does regeneration accomplish anything? Does man have any role in it?
Grudem defines regeneration as “a secret act of God in which he imparts new spiritual life to us” (Grudem 699). McCune writes “Regeneration is the instantaneous, spiritual impartation of spiritual life to the spiritually dead” (McCune 49). The phrase, “being born again” (Jn.3:3) refers to regeneration (cf.Titus 3:5).There is human responsibility to our conversion, such as confession, working out our own salvation, and our perseverance in our Christian walk. Yet when it comes to regeneration, God alone is working upon men. The apostle John teaches that only those Christ gave the right to become children of God, are reborn by a new birth that precedes from God the Father (Jn.1:12-13; 3:3-8).
It is regeneration that enlivens us to respond in faith that saves because man left by himself, cannot choose to do what is good. This is the whole idea that explains that man is totally depraved and inclined to evil always. Regeneration takes God to draw us to himself through his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, when theologians talk about man as being totally depraved they mean “that man`s nature is corrupt, perverse, and sinful throughout” (Thomas 24).
Regeneration again points us to God as being the sovereign God who is totally involved in the work of regeneration. The total depravity of man leaves him in a state of hopelessness. This is done by God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. There is unity as seen by the Trinity in the all work. What man needs is God`s grace which only He would provide (Ezek. 36:26-27; Gen.3:15; Jn. 3:8; Eph. 2:5; Col. 2:13; James 1:17-18; 1Pe. 1:3).
There is therefore, no human effort that is involved in the work of regeneration. In this regard, a reformed view of soteriology holds that regeneration is the secrete work of God man should never get any credit for it (see Boettner 61-82; Erickson 183-194; Guthrie 216; Thomas 24-29). The means of regeneration is the work of God, and how it is done only God knows. Since we have no part in it, we cannot fully understand apart from what we already know from the Scriptures. In John 3 there is a story of Nicodemus with Jesus, it gives us some clues; that on the human level men cannot tell how people are born of the Spirit (cf.Jn.3:3-8). What believers knows is that at one point in time they were dead in sin because of disobedience and it is God who has made them spiritually alive (see 1Jn. 3:9; 4:7; 5:3-4, 18; 4:4; Gal. 5:22-23).
The work of regeneration brings about change in the life of man. The new life of Christ is evident and the old life of man goes away. This work is done once and for all, and the life of a believer testifies to that transformation; there are fruits that spring forth in true believers, such as desiring the spiritual food which is the Word of God (cf.1Pet.2:1-3). There is an enjoyment that comes with the fellowship of other believers and with God (cf.1Jn.1:1-4). Another change that comes is the desire of reaching out to others and sharing the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to them (Rom 1:13-17).The Holy Spirit`s work of regeneration brings much fruit. This is what John the apostle deals with in 1John. Sin is no longer enjoyed because any one who is born again cannot allow sin to continue ruling their life (Rom.6:1-11). Believers may fall but they will rise up, confess there sins, and go back in the right path of righteousness (1Jn.1:9). Believers overcome the world through faith by keeping God`s commandments. There is a greater assurance that the Holy Spirit who is in us is greater than the one (the devil) who is in the world. This change brings so much joy upon one`s life. The other important thing to note is that the fruit of the Holy Spirit such as love, patience…becomes evident and real in the life of a regenerated believer. (See 1Jn. 3:9; 4:7; 5:3-4, 18; 4:4; Gal. 5:22-23).
Believing is an important aspect and necessary human responsibility between man and God; we can safely say that Christians are believers (cf. Acts 5:14). When God finishes His work of regeneration man on the other hand, without reservations has to willfully respond in faith to the gospel call, and believe in Christ after evaluating the truth of the gospel. And then depend on Christ for salvation, resulting in the forgiveness of sin and having an everlasting life. This way, the believer will have a genuine relationship with God; because they will put their faith in Christ for salvation (Jn. 3:17-18, 5:24; 6:40, 47; 20:31).
In conclusion, I have argued that regeneration is the only solution to the problem of human depravity because it is an act of God how his regenerating works we don’t know. God did not need to regenerate us because he was lonely or because he saw something good in us. God`s work of salvation upon us is for his own pleasure. There is nothing good in us that we deserved this work of God. It is for this reason that this should cause us to humble ourselves under the feet of our Lord Jesus Christ. The work of regeneration should cause us to rejoice and reach out to those whom God has called that they may come and join us in this unspeakable love God does in us through regeneration.
We have been looked at the problem of total depravity. Each of us is headed for destruction because of our active disobedience against God which has been passed on to us from Adam. With our right conscience we do not choose to love God and live for his righteousness. This is for a simple reason: Adam our representative in the Garden of Eden sinned thereby plunging all of humanity in total depravity. This problem encompasses all generations of mankind in history and those yet to be born. Apart from God’s special intervention, every one of us awaits the fearsome execution of His wrathful judgment. Man has no capacity to do what is spiritually good. Our salvation is entirely dependent on God’s work of regeneration that is applied to anyone of us who simply believes in Christ. We dare not ignore God’s gospel call: we do so at our own peril.
Mwansa Mulenga is a third year student at CABC
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