Pristine Grace

The Spirit and the Word
by Mike Krall

     There are many that claim that the work of the Spirit cannot be separated from the Word of God in the work of redemption. As a result they claim that the work of regeneration, although the sole work of the Holy Spirit, cannot and does not happen except under either the preaching of the word of God or at least the hearing of the word read or read by the individual in need of regeneration. This sounds all well and good, as far as the natural  mind is concerned, and appears to be what the Bible teaches but we intend to show that not only can this not be supported by the Word of God but those that hold to this view rarely if ever take it to its  biblical, logical conclusion, supported by a “thus sayeth the Lord”.
 
     This will not be an exhaustive study to defend what we call immediate regeneration, i.e., without assistance from any human, meaning that the Holy Spirit regenerates without means, but we will show that most that hold to this are not consistent with their own view, thereby, making it self evident the short comings of their contentions.
 
     To start with let us examine one verse that is always quoted by those that claim that one condition to be met by the sinner in order for regeneration to take place is the hearing of the gospel preached. The verse used is Romans 10:17 “so then faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” Those holding to the doctrine of unconditional election  acknowledge that regeneration precedes faith. But those not believing in unconditional election say that this verse in its context of Romans 10  shows that one must HEAR the word of God in order to have faith, thereby, proving that the hearing of the word is when the Spirit regenerates and one of the fruits of this regeneration is faith.
 
     But is that what this verse teaches? What  many fail to look at in this text is the verse that immediately follows verse 17.  In verse 18 Paul asks a question “But I say, Have they not heard?..” This is important because the word translated “word” in verse 17 is the word rhema not logos. And the word rhema carries with it more of the idea of utterance (spoken) than of the written word. So with that in view lets look at verse 18. Paul says after saying that faith comes by hearing and hearing comes  by the  “utterance” of God.  He  then mentions how the unbelieving Israelites, which is the context of this chapter, did hear (naturally and not Spiritually hearing) and still did not believe. In verses 14-15  the idea of one hearing through a preacher must be looked at in this context, but who is the preacher of verse 18? Who did the Israelites hear preach the Gospel? We know that Israel had the prophets and the law to proclaim the Gospel in the Old Covenant.  Yes, but Paul never refers to that when bringing condemnation to these unbelieving Israelites. Verse  18 of Romans  10 is a direct quote from Psalm 19. In Romans 10:18 we read, “But I say, have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went  into all the earth, and their words  unto the ends of the world.”  Who is the “their” in this context? The quote out of Psalm 19:4 makes it clear. The first verses in Psalm 19 are:  “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth His handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.  There is no speech or language, where their voice is not heard.  Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world….” It is quite clear from the context of Psalm 19 that Paul is signifying that the words preached  in God’s creation  to be  equal to the preached word, else why quote this Psalm? Is this not the same as in Romans 1:20 where Paul says, “for the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead”?  In that very chapter he says a few verses earlier (Romans 1:16) that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation for believers. So is  not His eternal power, that is revealed in creation, the Gospel?
 
     Some will ask at this point how is the gospel revealed in creation. We do not begin to question as to whether or not God has the how  and the way in which this is done.  We merely bow to His sovereign word and  acknowledge that He has so revealed this to be the case.
 
     But what does this say and what does it mean?  What we are trying to show is that the hearing of the Gospel and the act of believing are manifestations of the work of salvation already done in the life of one of God’s elect. The Gospel comes to those whom God has already giving Spiritual life, not the means to give Spiritual life. If we say that the hearing of the Gospel is necessary and the cause of the imparting of Spiritual life this leaves us with some implications that cannot be ignored.
 
     Implication number one is that for one to be consistent with this position one must fully acknowledge that for those dying in infancy or without mental capabilities to believe, such as a mentally retarded individual, there is absolutely no hope that they were numbered among the elect. God has not given us two ways of salvation: one for those with rational faculties and another for those without. If hearing the Gospel is absolutely necessary for one to be regenerate and that the hearing must be understood then that leaves out those two groups just mentioned. But if the hearing of the  Gospel is merely the means whereby God manifests what He has already done (and it is this way), bringing life and immortality  to light (2 Timothy 1:10) rather than into being, then we have a biblical warrant not to  write off either those dying in infancy nor the mentally incapable. There is no getting around  this conclusion without being inconsistent with the position that regeneration comes only under the Gospel. The Arminians know this and that is why they have conjured up this unbiblical idea of an age of accountability, something not taught in the written Word .
 
     The second implication is that if one must hear preaching to be saved there is no hope for one who  is dying who is incapable of hearing the Gospel while on their death bed. We were told by a well know sovereign grace Baptist preacher that one must either hear a sermon preached or read a sermon to be saved; one cannot be saved by reading the Bible. Now some do not go to this extreme, but, nonetheless, if one needs to hear the Word in some way to be regenerate, since God’s word cannot be separated from His Spirit, then that leaves a real problem which has produced a real inconsistency in  those espousing such a thing.
 
     Here is a hypothetical scenario. One has a grandfather that he hopes and prays would believe on Christ. So he takes his grandfather to hear the Gospel and he sits under the preaching and hears  the gospel clearly preached with his natural ear and he fully understands it with his natural ear but goes away never believing on Christ as the Savior of sinners (God’s elect). This person even witnesses over and over again to him but to no avail. Then some time later the grandfather is stricken with a stroke, he has lost his hearing and is in intensive care in the hospital. (We have never known of anyone that had an unsaved loved one in such a condition that did not ask for prayer for that person.) BUT WHY? If he is now incapable of hearing or reading the Gospel how can the Spirit all of a sudden work  independently of the Word? “Ah, but he heard the word at one time”, some will say. But are we to say that there is something magical about  the dead letter that gives God the permission now to do his work of regeneration. Does God now have permission (liberty) to regenerate someone even if the word was heard 85 years earlier as was the case with Luke Short who heard Puritan John Flavel preach when he was 15 and supposedly got converted at age 100? Mr. Short said that it was what he heard at 15 that never left his memory and when the Spirit quickened him he then embraced the Christ that he had heard of at age 15.
 
     This sounds like a good testimony (and it is a good testimony from and going to a natural mind) for the idea of the Spirit needing the Word to regenerate, but we believe it is just the opposite. Yes, the preached word was used to bring the truth to the mind, but prior to the preached word being delivered to a child of God, the Holy Spirit had already been there and worked an effectual work of Grace within/upon the child of God by implanting within them the new birth.  God sent the Spirit sovereignly to do the work as He sees fit. To limit God to the work of men, in preaching and witnessing, to impart Spiritual life to a sinner is to try and put God in a box, the same way the Arminians  have tried to do. The inconsistency of those embracing this view is proof that they cannot take their view to its logical conclusion, to be proven by a “thus sayeth the Lord”.
 
     In closing we want to point out one more Scripture that supports the view that the Spirit quickens before the work  of the Gospel comes, and that is the parable of our Lord of the four soils. The seed was the word in that parable and the soil was the heart. We know of no one that will deny that the changing of the soil is the changing of the heart of stone into a heart of flesh in regeneration. So are we to say that the seed changed the soil? To some they would be forced to say yes because they think that you just give the word to the hardened sinner and  let the seed do its work. But the fact is that the seed did not change the way side hearer into a good hearer. That had happened prior to the sowing of the seed.
 
     Are we saying that we are not to preach the Gospel to lost sinners (lost sheep)? Nothing of the sort! What we are saying is that the subject of the Gospel address is those that God has imparted Spiritual life, and the preaching of the Gospel is that which calls the regenerate sinner to the fold, or works knowledge upon and within the child of God wherein he realizes God’s Spirit has already performed a wonderful work. We like to look at the work of regeneration pictured in the raising of Lazarus and the removing of the graves clothes by those standing by  to be the work of the Gospel ministry that removes the grave clothes of sin. But this is an ongoing process that continues throughout the Christian’s life. Paul said in Romans 16:25 “Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ…”  It is through the preaching of Christ and the Gospel that the born again children of God are established and maintained throughout their life on earth. We also read that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation “to every one that believeth (Romans 1:16)”, NOT to everyone that WILL believe (as was quoted to me by someone recently). The word “believeth” is a present participle (something that has already taken place) as it is in 1 Cor 1:21: “it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe”, (literally to save those believing, a present participle) implying that the Gospel is the means of establishing the Spiritually living children of God in the faith.  When the Gospel of Christ is preached to the Spiritually born child of God, therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith (Romans1:17).  Meaning that the Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God (Romans 8:16).  And this faith-to-faith revealed knowledge of Christ harmonizes with the Spirit bearing witness with our spirit, even when the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered (Romans 8:26), showing that ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father (Romans 8:15).
 
     We are to preach the gospel knowing that those that God has given Spiritual ears to hear will indeed believe on Christ, evidencing that they are numbered among those for whom Christ purchased with His own blood. It is this teaching that not only gives all the credit to God for the salvation of His people, “so by the obedience of ONE (not 2 or 3: Christ plus the sinner and the Gospel preacher) shall many be made righteous (Romans 5:19)”, but one can now preach the Gospel with full faith that God will indeed call His Spiritually living children by and to Himself.
 
     To Him be all praise, honor and glory.