Sovereign Regeneration


Sovereign Regeneration
Acts 9:1–19 “Falling to the ground he
heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul,
Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And he said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’” (vv.

We made the point a few days
ago that every Christian tradition has formulated
some doctrine of
regeneration. Despite the differing formulations of this
doctrine, however,
there are ultimately only two different views of the role
of man and the role
of God in regeneration: monergism or synergism.

A synergistic view of
regeneration says man and God cooperate in bringing new
life to a person. The
Lord acts upon the heart of the unbeliever, imploring
him to change. However,
though God calls to the heart, regeneration cannot
occur unless the
unbeliever, who has the ability to say, “yes,” or “no,”
embraces the divine
call. There are several problems with this view. First,
synergism sees the
human will working with the divine will to achieve
salvation. Yet we all come
into the world spiritually dead and, being dead,
cannot take hold of God’s
grace unless first moved by His grace (Ps. 51:5;
Eph. 2:4–5). Synergism also
reverses the order of regeneration and faith.
Synergists argue that we first
come to faith, and then we are born again. But
if being born again is
necessary to see the kingdom (John 3:3), regeneration
must precede faith.
After all, you cannot trust the Lord if you cannot see the
truth of His

Monergism, on the other hand, says that God’s Spirit is the sole
agent in
regeneration. God moves sovereignly upon the souls of those He has
enabling them to have faith. He takes the spiritually dead and makes
alive. We are actually born again — regenerated — before we have faith.
We are
not born again because we trust Jesus; we trust Jesus because we are

God’s sovereignty in regeneration is seen clearly in the
account of Paul’s
conversion found in today’s passage. Saul of Tarsus was
completely unwilling
to follow Jesus the Messiah before God took the
initiative. He was so
hard-hearted, in fact, that he did all he could to
destroy the church of Jesus
Christ. But when Jesus appeared to Him, Saul
could not resist. Christ, by His
Spirit, gave Paul the eyes to see the
kingdom and to become one of its
greatest ambassadors (Acts 9:1–19). Had
Jesus not overpowered Saul’s natural
inclination against Him, there never
would have been an apostle Paul.

Coram deo: Living before the face of
Some of us have had dramatic
conversion experiences that we remember vividly.
Others cannot remember a
time when they did not trust in Jesus. Whatever our
story, the same God who
raised Jesus to life and knocked Saul of Tarsus to the
ground also
overpowered our natural bent against Him. The fact that you
believe is
evidence of the Lord’s mighty working in your life. He loved us
enough to
seek us out when we were running from Him.

For further study:

Samuel 3

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