Article of Faith #9 – Justification, Regeneration, and Adoption
Date: Sunday, July 25, 2004
Author: Rev. Jonathan K. Twitchell
Before we begin our study on the Ninth Article of Faith this morning, I’d like to take a moment for a very quick review of the first eight articles.
We began our study at the beginning of the summer with a look at the nature of God. The first three Articles of Faith spoke of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In week four, we spoke of how the primary purpose of Scripture is that we might encounter God within its pages, learning from them the His plan of redemption and salvation.
The Bible also tells us of the sinful condition of humanity, and how each of us are born into the state of Original Sin, which gives us a tendency toward actual or personal sin. It is that actual sin which violates the law of love and breaks our relationship with God.
But, as we learned in week 6, God’s grace abounds to us, for “He so loved the world that He sent His one and only Son,” in order that we might not perish. We spoke of how Christ’s perfect sacrifice on the cross was available to all, and effective for those who repent and believe.
In week 7, we learned that we can respond to (and accept) the atonement only because of God’s grace which calls us to Him. We specifically spoke of how it is only because of His grace that we are aware of our sinful nature and aware of the holiness of God. It is only because of His grace that we are able to have a seed of faith, and only by His grace that we might repent from our sins. It is this grace that we call Prevenient Grace: the grace which goes before.
It is this Grace which calls us to repentance, which is more than simply being sorry for our sin, but turning away from our sin. Turning from ourselves toward God. When we respond to God’s grace, we are able to repent and believe.
Precisely what happens at the moment of repentance and belief is the subject of this week’s Article. In your bulletin, you will find the Ninth Article of Faith, and I’d like to read the final paragraph for you first:
12. We believe that justification, regeneration, and adoption are simultaneous in the experience of seekers after God and are obtained upon the condition of faith, preceded by repentance; and that to this work and state of grace the Holy Spirit bears witness.
I do apologize this morning, for I will have to charge you three times as much for this sermon. Typically I only charge twenty dollars for these sermons, for they only contain one “Twenty Dollar Word.” But, it appears as though this week’s article has given us three “Twenty Dollar Words” to look at, and so I guess this must be a “Sixty Dollar Sermon.”
We believe that at the moment of salvation-that moment when we respond to God’s grace, repent of our sins, turn from ourselves toward God, and believe that Jesus died for our sins-we believe that three things happen all at once-the sinner is justified, regenerated, and adopted.
Justified bears within it the root word of justice. The concept of being justified carries a sense that God’s justice has been met. The atonement-Christ’s death on the cross-was, in part, about God’s justice and His mercy coexisting in such a way that the penalty for our sin might be paid for. You may have heard me say that when I was justified, in God’s eyes it was “just-if-I’d never sinned.” It is in justification that we are forgiven, that we are saved from the penalty of our sin, we are pardoned. Justification follows repentance, as illustrated in this parable told by Jesus in Luke 18, beginning in verse 9:
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 10“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
13“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
14“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
The Gospel of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.
Being forgiven necessitates having repented of our former deeds and turning toward our new deeds. It is then that we are justified, pardoned, forgiven. The publican was justified because he honestly recognized his condition as a sinner. He came to God with no pretense or righteousness of his own, but relying entirely upon God’s grace. We say this about justification:
9. We believe that justification is the gracious and judicial act of God by which He grants full pardon of all guilt and complete release from the penalty of sins committed, and acceptance as righteous, to all who believe on Jesus Christ and receive Him as Lord and Savior.
Remember that the first condition of justification is that we have responded to God’s grace, by faith repenting of our sins. We learned last week that repentance not only indicates sorrow for our behavior, but an actual change in our behavior as well. It is not unreasonable then to suppose that we ought to be different after our repentance…we ought to be new.
Our culture has a seeming obsession with ‘new’ things. We like new cars, new computers, new clothes. Last week I drove by a Library, and noted a new parking lot, new landscaping, new sidewalks and a new sign. I’m sure that those librarians must be very excited about the new things around them. Here in this church, we got new pew Bibles. In fact, I imagine that most of you were so excited about the new Bibles that first week they were in the pews that you didn’t notice they had spelt “Nazarene” wrong on the front cover. (Oh, don’t worry, we got a new set shipped to us, which have been out since the second week.) Right there on the front cover was Church of the NazErene, and I don’t think a single person came up to me and pointed it out…why? Because we were excited with the newness of it. We looked at the large print inside, and how sharp they looked, all matching in the pews instead of the mismatched ones we had before.
I confess that I have such a fascination with new things, that sometimes I can’t even wait to get home to open the packaging. Earlier this week I had to purchase a new computer part, so I had Melody drive home so I could open the package up and read the instructions and look it over. While some of us are more extreme about this than others, we have to admit: we like new things.
This is not a bad thing. We recognize that things get worn out, broken, and need replacing. We get tired of seeing the same dents and scratches in our cars, and would like to replace them. Clothes fray and get stains on them, and so we buy new clothes. Sometimes we can patch things and repair them…but there is a limit to the patching and repairing that we can do before we need something new.
In a way, our lives are like that. Before coming to Christ, our lives were broken beyond repair. We were unable to patch up our own life or fix ourselves. And so, we needed to wipe the slate clean, and start life anew.
The great message of the Gospel is that we can have new life, we can be born again. No, we can’t start life over again as a baby, but we can have a spiritual rebirth. Hear these words from John 3:
1Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
3In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
4″How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”
5Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’
How is this “New Birth” possible? These verses from the New Testament certainly should shed some light on regeneration and the new birth:
Romans 6 4We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
2 Corinthians 5 14For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again
16So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
Our new life, our regeneration, is specifically related to the resurrection. Because Jesus conquered death and the grave and was raised to new life, you too may experience newness of life. This also happens at the moment of salvation. You are regenerated, the old is passing away and you are becoming a new creation. You have a new perspective, your spiritual eyes have been opened, and your capacity for righteousness has been awakened. In more formal words:
10. We believe that regeneration, or the new birth, is that gracious work of God whereby the moral nature of the repentant believer is spiritually quickened and given a distinctively spiritual life, capable of faith, love, and obedience.
This leaves us with one final event that happens simultaneously at the moment of salvation-your adoption. One of the best illustrations of adoption comes not from the New Testament, but from the time of King David. In Second Samuel 9, you read about how King David desired to show kindness to someone from the household of King Saul. Now we might not think too much about that today, but in those days it was customary to kill off the prior king’s family, in order that they might not be able to come back and lay claim to your throne. Instead of seeking out Saul’s household to make sure that they had all been done away with, David finds Mephibosheth, a crippled grandson of the former King. He calls Mephibosheth to come to the palace, not to execute him, but to welcome him in as part of the King’s family.
This is what happens when Mephibosheth arrives at the palace:
6 When Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David, he bowed down to pay him honor.
David said, “Mephibosheth!”
“Your servant,” he replied.
7 “Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.”
8 Mephibosheth bowed down and said, “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?”
9 Then the king summoned Ziba, Saul’s servant, and said to him, “I have given your master’s grandson everything that belonged to Saul and his family. 10 You and your sons and your servants are to farm the land for him and bring in the crops, so that your master’s grandson may be provided for. And Mephibosheth, grandson of your master, will always eat at my table.” (Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants.)
11 Then Ziba said to the king, “Your servant will do whatever my lord the king commands his servant to do.” So Mephibosheth ate at David’s table like one of the king’s sons.
12 Mephibosheth had a young son named Mica, and all the members of Ziba’s household were servants of Mephibosheth. 13 And Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, because he always ate at the king’s table, and he was crippled in both feet.
The Word of the Lord for His children.
Once again, we see an interplay between mercy and grace. Remember that mercy is when we “don’t get what we deserve,” and grace is when we “get what we don’t deserve.” Mephibosheth (according to the standards of the culture) deserved death, but David demonstrated mercy by allowing him to live. He certainly did not deserve to have land given to him and servants instructed to care for the land in order that he might live in the palace as one of the King’s sons, and David demonstrates grace by inviting him to come eat at his table. David’s grace resulted in Mephibosheth’s adoption.
11. We believe that adoption is that gracious act of God by which the justified and regenerated believer is constituted a son of God.
It is adoption which allows us to call God our Father, our Abba-Daddy. It is adoption which allows us to place our petitions before the Throne of God. It is adoption which allows us to eat at His Table-both the banqueting table at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, and the Table of Holy Communion.
We will celebrate that Adoption in just a moment, when I pass on to you the invitation that Christ issues to come to His Table, to feast with Him and enjoy His presence. You’ve been invited…not simply as a repentant sinner, but as a son of God. If by faith, you have responded to God’s Grace and repented of your sins then you have been justified, regenerated, and adopted into the family of God. Titus 3 encapsulates the Gospel message for us:
4But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
Indeed, through repentance from our sins, we are saved from the penalty of our sin, we are made into a new creature, and we are adopted by the Almighty God, Creator of the Universe.
Benediction: I Thess 5:23May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.