From what has been written and published in our columns on these two very important points of the doctrine of God our Savior, there seems to us to be a failure on the part of some of our dear brethren, either to understand the scriptural import of these words, or to comprehend the meaning of each other; and we are confident that the difference is much greater in appearance than in reality. The divine command to the saints of God requires of them to be of one mind; and it is therefore of great importance that on subjects of vital moment, we should all labor to obviate every seeming difference, and to see eye to eye. Every proposition should be carefully tested by the only infallible standard, the Scriptures. Nothing can redound to the glory of God, or conduce to the edification of the saints, that is not sustained by the Scriptures of truth. That even the saints, while in the flesh, should fail to understand every portion of the word alike is not surprising; for we can only perfectly understand the inspired testimony of the Bible so far as it is opened to us by the Spirit, which Christ has given to lead his disciples into all truth. When any difference, or seeming difference, arises, and we are drawn into any thing like controversy, we should carefully avoid all fleshly ambition to excel, or strive for mastery; and above all, that we inflict no unnecessary wound on those of God's children who may fail to appreciate the force of our arguments. In reviewing the communications of brethren, before we indulge in any severe animadversions, we should be sure that we understand the positions assumed by them. It is true, whatever is published by any brother is open to the careful examination and criticism of all who read it, and should be candidly, but kindly, scrutinized; that we may prove all things, and hold fast that which is good. All who write with the single desire to elucidate truth for the edification and comfort of the saints will desire to have their views tested by the divinely authorized standard; and if any thing be detected which the Scriptures will not sustain, especially any thing conflicting with divine testimony, its detection and exposure should be regarded as a favor equally to the writer and the readers.
Recently some difference has been obvious in the views of brethren in regard to the scriptural signification of the word regeneration, as used in the New Testament; some holding that it is, and others that it is not, the same in signification and application with what is called the new birth. Some applying the word regeneration to the resurrection power of God which brought again from the dead the crucified body of Christ, and in him the resurrection life and immortality of all his mystical body and members, from under the law which was the ministration of death, into the resurrection life and immortality of the Son of God.
Now, as a birth, either natural or spiritual, always implies a generation, because without generation there can be no birth; and whatever is born is the development of that which was generated, it is not strange that the two terms have been thought by many to mean one and the same thing. Such indeed had been our view for years; but as we now conceive, because we had not been led to closely investigate the subject until it was presented for consideration by some of the brethren. Here let us observe that those who take the position that the terms regeneration and the new birth mean one and the same, and that both apply to the experimental quickening of the children of God, do not deny that all the saints are redeemed and quickened together with Christ, and raised up together, and made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Nor, on the other hand, do those brethren who apply the word regeneration to the quickening of the whole elect family of God by the resurrection of Christ hold with less tenacity the vital importance of the new birth, as it has always been held by the church of God, in its personal application to all the saints in their individual experience, in being quickened by the Spirit, and born into the liberty of the sons of God.
While, so far as we understand them, we agree with our brethren that the regeneration which is mentioned but twice in the Bible, in both cases refers to the reproduction from death of the whole mystical body of Christ, by his resurrection, we at the same time hold, as we have ever held, that every member of the body of Christ must experience the new and spiritual birth, of which Christ spake to Nicodemus in John 3:3-10.
Still in perfect harmony with that vitally important sentiment, we also believe that Christ in his incarnation took on him the seed of Abraham, and that all who are Christ's are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise; and that they were so identified with him in his assumption of our flesh, that when he died, they were legally dead with him; and when he arose from the dead, they were quickened together with him, and they were raised up together, and made to sit together in the heavenly places. The whole church, as the body of Christ, was buried with him by baptism into death, regenerated, or reproduced from death, by the resurrection life of his resurrection; so that in like manner as they were buried with him into his death, they were raised from the dead with him to newness of life; married and identified with him in resurrection, or regeneration life. How else can it be said we are quickened, and raised up together with him; that we are risen with Christ, and dead to the law by his body? How else shall we understand that we are raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, to walk in newness of life? Raised up from under that law which holds dominion over a man as long as he lives; being by that law crucified with Christ, dead with him to the law by his body, and regenerated in a new life, and reproduced in a new relationship, over the which the law of wrath and condemnation has no dominion. And being thus risen with Christ, now instead of continuing to seek for righteousness by the works of the law, or for those things which belong to the legal dispensation or worldly sanctuary, we who are risen with Christ are instructed to seek those things which are above, even in the heavenly places of the regeneration, which are the heavenly places of the spiritual kingdom, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.
If it be conceded that our participation of flesh and blood by our creation and generation in the first Adam placed us in and with him under the law that he was created under, which he transgressed, and by the transgression of which he involved us in guilt and death, from which Christ, the second Adam, to redeem us was required to be made flesh, and to dwell among us, under the same law, and that in doing this, he took on him the seed of Abraham, that seed of Abraham which was reckoned in Isaac (not seeds, as of many, but to thy seed, Abraham's seed, which is Christ), and that in being made flesh, he was to suffer in the flesh, bear our sins in the body of his flesh, be put to death in the flesh; then not only was he put to death in the flesh, but the flesh in which he suffered was also put to death. Now observe, the reproduction of those thus buried in death by his baptism of suffering was not a mere resuscitation, or recovering to that life which was put away, but a resurrection to immortal life, and to a spiritual state perfectly free from guilt, condemnation and death. Hence it is said that God hath begotten us again to a lively (or vital, immortal) hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance which is (like the seed by which this immortality is generated) incorruptible, undefiled, and fadeth not away. Is it heresy to call this regeneration? Redeemed from the generation of the earthly Adam, reproduced in the life and immortality of the second Adam, which is the Lord from heaven, our relation to earth, to the flesh, to the law, to sin, corruption and death is dissolved and we are identified with the risen Savior in his resurrection life, is not this regeneration?
But, in other words, was not that life which quickened and resurrected the crucified body of our Lord, the same resurrection life of which we are made experimentally the partakers when we are born again? If so, was it not communicated to the whole church of God, in her spiritual Head, when he was raised from the dead? If not, at what period was it communicated from God the Father, through Christ, the Mediator, to his mystical body and members? But why apply the terms generation, regeneration, begetting and birth, to this reproduction of the church in her spiritual life? Because the Bible uses terms which, in our judgment, fully warrant us. That his resurrection was a regeneration will appear from the record. He was begotten in the flesh by the Holy Ghost, conceived in the womb of the virgin Mary, and that holy thing which should be born of her should and was called the Son of God. Thus by generation he was made flesh, made of a woman, made under the law, that in this flesh he should be put to death. In his resurrection divine inspiration has used similar terms. "Thou art my Son. This day have I begotten thee (Psalm 2:7)." And in Acts 13:32, 33, these very words are applied to the resurrection of Christ. "And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise made to the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee." If these Scriptures, together with those which declare him to be "the first begotten of the dead (Revelation 1:5);" "The first born from the dead (Colossians 1:18)," do not imply a regeneration, then we are at a complete loss to find words in our language to express the idea. Generated, in being made flesh, circumcised, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ, and begotten again from the dead, and born from the dead, in immortal life, over which death hath no power; and to be known no more in the flesh, but to be known henceforth as the Resurrection and the Life of all his members.
But, admitting the application of the term, to the resurrection of Christ from the dead, some may ask why we include it in the regeneration of the church.
Well, let us see. Did Christ arise from the dead and leave his church, or any part thereof, behind him, and under the curse of the law, the guilt of sin and dominion of death, or did he not rather abolish death, and bring immortality to light in his resurrection? When he went forth weeping and bearing precious seed, did he not return again rejoicing, bearing his sheaves with him (Psalm 126:6)? In what other sense, or by what other generation, does Christ claim his members as the children of the resurrection? Can the relationship of children exist without generation? It is written, "A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation. They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done it (Psalm 22:30,31)." Is it not presumptuous to deny that the church was quickened together with Christ, and that they were raised up together? In what other sense can we understand that impressive and striking illustration which he himself gave of his death and resurrection? "Verily, verily I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit (John 12:24)." The context proves that this double asseveration was used to impress deeply on the minds of his disciples the application of the figure, as illustrative of his death, and the quickening and reproduction of his seed, whom he would redeem from the earth, and bring up with him, and in him, as their Resurrection. A very similar figure is used in illustration of the resurrection of the saints (see I Corinthians 15:36-38). "Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened except it die: And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain. But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body." If Christ is that corn of wheat which fell into the ground and died, what is his own body which God has given him in his resurrection? Let the inspired apostle answer: "And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all (Ephesians 1:19-23)."
"Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead (Isaiah 26:19)." Compare with Hosea 6:1,2; "Come, and let us return unto the Lord; for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will also bind us up. After two days will he revive us; and in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight." Ages and generations may pass before all the members of Christ's mystical body shall be quickened and live in the sight of any but God. But in the sight of the omniscient eye, when his soul was poured out unto death, all his seed was clearly seen, as living in his sight, and in that life which is hid with Christ in God, and which in the absence of Christ can never be seen. When, and wherever he, who is their life, appears, then, and there, do all his members appear with him in glory. In his death, the corn of wheat containing the germ of all the harvest fell into the ground and died. Here is the planting in the likeness of his death, which is set forth by Christian baptism; and resurrection with him to newness of life. By death this relation to the earth is dissolved. We have known him in the flesh, as a man of sorrow, acquainted with grief, subject to pain and death: but henceforth know we him no more. "He was taken from prison and from judgment; and who shall declare his generation; for he is cut off out of the land of the living (Isaiah 53:8)." "Thou sowest not that body which shall be." Before his death he was under the law, laden with all the sins of his people, for God hath laid on him the iniquities of all his people, prepared him for the sufferings of death, and made him a little lower than the angels. "But God giveth it a body as hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body." Now, in his own body, the church, quickened and immortal, or resurrection life, he dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. The greatness of God's mighty power is displayed, which he wrought in Christ when he raised him up from the dead. Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments, which were on him when he was put to death in the flesh. He has nailed them to his cross, and leaving these all behind, he has arisen from the dead in a spiritual resurrection body, begotten by the Father from the dead, he is exalted in his resurrection body, "far above all principality and power, and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come." The seed which fell into the ground and died has burst the bands of death, and triumphed over the grave. Bearing his sheaves with him, he enters the portals of immortality as our triumphant Prince and Savior. "God has gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet."
"Lift up your heads,
Ye everlasting doors, fly wide
Make ready to receive my bride;
Ye harps of heaven, come sound aloud,
Here comes the purchase of my blood."
Now tune your sweetest harps, ye ransomed sons of God, and without a jarring note, swell the immortal notes written by Peter, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again." Don't falter at that strain - heaven shall resound with its melody; sing it loud, sound it clearly, and high as the heavens your voices raise when you repeat the chorus. Blessed God, who hath begotten us in this resurrection regeneration, "to a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance which is incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away; reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time."
Now, brethren, does this doctrine of resurrection regeneration alarm any of you? Examine it closely, carefully, and prayerfully, and compare it with the Scriptures and with your experience.
We have called your attention to the Scriptures on the subject; now suffer us to appeal to your own experience. You are born again of an incorruptible seed, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever. What think you; was that incorruptible seed in Christ when like a corn of wheat he fell into the earth and died for you? Were you quickened by the power of the resurrection of the Son of God when you passed from death unto life? If not, from what begetting did your new birth proceed? To what generation do you by it belong? Do you really think the Head of the church was begotten from the dead at one time, and the body and fullness of Christ at another? Has your new birth brought you forth as children of the resurrection? Is the life of the Head of the church the same that is the life of his body? Is Jesus Christ your resurrection and your life?
But, say you, Jesus arose from the dead eighteen hundred years ago; and our birth transpired but recently. True, but can you ascribe it to anything short of the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ? Had he failed to have risen from the dead, could you have been born again? Was not the very first gleam of hope that cheered your desponding heart a view, by faith, of the risen Savior? Could you rest upon any other hope than that power which God wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead? Were you quickened and made to believe in God, as were the saints at Ephesus, and all the faithful in Christ Jesus, according to the working of his mighty power which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead? If you were born of the Spirit that raised up Jesus from the dead, then rest assured that he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you (Romans 8:11).
Now let us review the decree, in the second psalm, "Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee," and the inspired explanation of it in Acts 13:32,33; "And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made to the fathers, God hath fulfilled unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee." How is the resurrection of Jesus Christ the fulfillment of the promise made to the fathers, unto us their children? This risen Jesus is our resurrection and our life. The day of this decree of God was ushered in by the resurrection of Christ, and cannot terminate until all who are begotten by his resurrection shall be born of the Spirit that raised him from the dead. It has been rightly said by some of our brethren that generation must always precede a birth; begetting and quickening are always before the new birth. This generation chosen in Christ, as a seed that shall serve him, which shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation, shall come and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born (Psalm 22:30,31). Paul declares to us the gracious purpose of God in quickening, and raising us up together (or simultaneously) with Christ; and it is "That in the ages to come," for in order of time, ages are required for the development of this regeneration, and the personal development of that people, who, being already regenerated in Christ, shall be born of his resurrection life and spirit; yet all this shall certainly be accomplished in the one day, in which God will make up his jewels, and in which a nation shall be born. So in the ages to come, the ages which have come, and the ages yet in the future, God will shew the exceeding riches of his grace, in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:7).
One further consideration. Our Lord Jesus Christ is expressly called the Only Begotten of the Father; how then is it possible for us to be brought into the vital relationship of sons of God, unless we were begotten and regenerated in him, as sons of God, and heirs of immortality? We have supposed that the eternal deity or Godhead of Christ is unbegotten, underived, self-existent and eternal; and that his Sonship has reference to his Mediatorial Headship of the church over which he presides, and that the members of the church, as being the members of his body, have their sonship in his Sonship, their life in his life, their righteousness in his righteousness, and their heirship jointly with his, to an inheritance of glory. In what other way we can be sons or heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ, we cannot conceive. In the election of grace all his people were chosen in him before the foundation of the world, and their eternal life was and still is hid with him in God. In the divine purpose, so far as that purpose is made known to us, our God ordained to manifest the body of Christ in all its members, by a first and second birth; provided for them through the first and second Adam. Through the generations of the first (in the order of their development) in Adam, they were partakers of flesh and blood, in which they were subjects of the law under which Adam was created and under which he fell; so that in Adam all die; and in their Adamic nature they were all children of wrath, even as others; but in their regeneration and new birth by, and through the second Adam, which is the Lord from heaven, they are made partakers of the divine nature, are washed from all pollutions, and cleansed from all guilt, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost.
Hereafter, we propose to treat on the new birth as taught in the word and experienced personally by the saints.
September 1, 1868.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 7
Pages 249 - 258