Article XVI-Salvation-Regeneration

Continuing on the series of the Free Methodist Church’s Articles of Religion (see here and here for an explanation of the series and format):

¶117 Salvation-Regeneration

Regeneration is a biological term which illustrates that by a new relationship in Christ, one does in fact have a new life and a new spiritual nature capable of faith, love and obedience to Christ Jesus as Lord. The believer is born again and is a new creation. The old life is past; a new life has begun.

¶131 Scriptural References

The doctrines of the Free Methodist Church are based upon the Holy Scriptures and are derived from their total biblical context. The references below are appropriate passages related to the given articles. They are listed in their biblical sequence and are not intended to be exhaustive. Ezekiel 36:26-27; John 5:24; Romans 6:4; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:9-10; Titus 3:4-5; 1 Peter 1:23.

The last Article we had dealt with salvation as justification, which is a legal term and speaks to our guilt of sin and freedom from judgment because of that guilt. This Article deals with salvation as a brand new creation. This is important. Our salvation is not just about moving from guilty to not guilty. That is one, vital aspect, but it is not all there is.

Regeneration reminds us that our salvation is also about moving from death to life. All of creation is dying. Many insightful people have said that the moment we are born we begin to die. The arrow of time for physicists is entropy, the natural process of decay in the universe. Everything and everyone dies. Salvation is the antidote to that seemingly inevitable process.

Because a saving relationship with Jesus Christ involves new creation, we human beings are restored to our immortal selves we were supposed to be. Obviously, this statement can be argued against very vehemently, since all of the Christians who have ever lived still died. Yet we hold by faith this very important concept that without Christ, without the regeneration of the Holy Spirit in our lives because of salvation, we are spiritually dead and condemned. With the regeneration that comes from salvation, we have passed from death to life and even though our bodies still hold the consequences of sin in them, resulting in them either burning out or rusting out and ceasing to function, our spirits have been awakened. Because our spirits are now alive in Christ we will continue on long after our bodies do not, and we will receive a new body that will never perish. Regeneration leads directly to one of our later Articles on resurrection and eternal life.

Practically speaking, this means that if we are in Christ, we do not just revel in the idea that we are now forgiven and not guilty. We also know that we have been given a new life in Christ and we are called to live out that new life by the standards Christ has set. We are called to live as if we truly are citizens of the New Jerusalem here and now. And we are called to live as faithful ambassadors of the King whom we serve.

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Ecclesiastes 7:20 and Obsolete Theology

One of the most difficult things to do is to read the Bible honestly, allowing the different parts of it to balance and inform other parts. This is difficult because it is easy to simply say that all of the Bible is equally valid. The appropriate objection to this is comes from those who support same-sex marriage when they ask why we object to this issue and not to women wearing pants or men shaving the sides of their faces. It is also easy to say that everything that comes before Jesus is no longer valid. The appropriate objection to this is simply to look at how much the Old Testament figured into Jesus’ ministry and how much of it permeates the New Testament.

Every once in a while, though, there is a section in the Old Testament that is theologically obsolete. Here in Ecclesiastes there are a few places:

7:20 Remember: there’s no one on earth so righteous as to do good only and never sin.

8:8 No one has control over the life-breath, to retain it, and there’s no control over the day of death.

9:5-6 But the dead know nothing at all. There is no more reward for them; even the memory of them is lost.  Their love and their hate, as well as their zeal, are already long gone. They will never again have a stake in all that happens under the sun.

empty_tombBecause of Jesus Christ, these are now obsolete. First of all, the incarnation itself makes much of Ecclesiastes obsolete since the recurring theme throughout the book is that there is nothing new under the sun. God becoming man is completely new, and as Jesus walked the earth, he made 7:20 obsolete since he was without sin. Easter Sunday made 8:8 obsolete since Jesus rose from the dead. In fact in the Gospel of John Jesus says that he has the authority to lay down his life and take it up again. Because of Jesus’ resurrection being the precursor to the general resurrection and life everlasting in the Kingdom of God, 9:5-6 is obsolete since we will have a stake in what happens under the sun once again.

What this means is that there may be wise truths in Ecclesiastes, but the majority of the book and its themes are more of a snapshot of what the world was like before the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Living on this side of the life, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus it is easy to forget that when God entered into creation it fundamentally changed reality. Ecclesiastes reminds us of that fact.

1 Corinthians 15:32-34 and Christian Living

Martin-Resurrection-MorningResurrection.

There is no more radically Christian concept than the resurrection of the dead, led off with the resurrection of Jesus as proof of its reality.  Early on in the life of the Church there were many who could not wrap their brains around this idea.  Jewish people had a hard time with it because they understood the resurrection to be at “the end of all things” and all the righteous would be raised at the same time, not just one individual before then.  Gentiles had a hard time with it because Greco-Roman thought held that the body was evil and the goal of life was to escape physicality, so the idea of having a physical body for eternity was a foreign concept.

The situation in Corinth was borne out of the latter understanding.  Christians there denied the resurrection because it was completely foreign to their understanding of how the universe worked.  Paul counters this with a long impassioned defense of the resurrection.  It is in this defense that Paul writes

From a human point of view, what good does it do me if I fought wild animals in Ephesus? If the dead aren’t raised, let’s eat and drink because tomorrow we’ll die.  Don’t be deceived, bad company corrupts good character.  Sober up by acting like you should and don’t sin. Some of you are ignorant about God—I say this because you should be ashamed of yourselves!

Resurrection can be troublesome for humanity because it means that we will have ample time to deal with the consequences of our lives.  If we are Christians and we deny Christ, either verbally or non-verbally by living wantonly sinful lives, we will still be resurrected and face the consequences of those choices.  If we keep the faith in the face of persecution or even more simply in our everyday choices and actions, we will be resurrected and face the consequences of those choices.  Resurrection has direct bearing on Christian living.

Think about it.