Today I’m continuing a short 5-part series on the five solas of the Reformation. This post would normally be posted on Tuesday, but since tomorrow happens to be the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, I will be writing a completely different article on that subject tomorrow.
The five solas are specific Latin slogans that emerged from the Reformation era as a means of identifying specific doctrinal positions that stand in contrast to the beliefs and practices of the Roman Catholic Church. The slogans are:
- Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone)
- Sola Gratia (Grace Alone)
- Sola Fide (Faith Alone)
- Solus Christus (Christ Alone)
- Soli Deo Gloria (To God Alone Be Glory)
Today’s focus is on the fifth sola—Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone). If the five solas are built upon the firm foundation of sola Scriptura—it’s appropriate that we come to understand that the work of God in saving sinners is all for the glory of God alone. When Johann Tetzel and others would say, “When a coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs.” This was to ascribe glory to man’s alms or the Roman Catholic Church’s authority to make the transaction. This is nothing but a blasphemous doctrine.
Why Soli Deo Gloria?
The work of salvation is a work of God alone. Sure, man responds to God in the process, but not until the work of God has already been accomplished and put into motion. Man is dead in trespasses and sin and cannot work his way to God, will his way to God, worship his way to God, or pay his way to God (Eph. 2:1-5). Salvation in many evangelical circles has been reduced down to a three step process whereby people make a decision to follow Jesus by asking Jesus to come into their heart.
All throughout the Bible, we see that salvation is something far different than a human decision. Salvation, as Jonah said, “belongs to the LORD” (Jonah 2:9). John the apostle, in his Gospel put emphasis on the fact that sinners are born of God (John 1:12-13). He makes it clear that we are not born again by the will of man, the will of the flesh, by blood relationships, or any other common belief. We are saved when we are born of God. John returns to that same thought as he writes to a group of churches in his epistle known as 1 John. He writes, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7).
Robert Robinson penned these famous words in 1758:
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood;
As the Bible places great emphasis upon the fact that God saves sinners and that the work of salvation is a work of God in divine mercy saving a people who not only don’t deserve to be saved, but are completely unable to save themselves—it only makes sense that salvation is for the glory of God alone. That’s why the Reformers pointed back to God—not the pope, priests, saints, or any other religious hierarchy. Salvation of fallen sinful man is to the praise of God alone.
The next time you hear people giving a congratulations to sinners who have just been rescued by the sovereign grace and mercy of God—remember that the sinner didn’t do anything to deserve or earn salvation. Instead of praising the new Christian—we should praise God.
Last of all, let it be known that for us to praise God and for God to desire the praise and glory is not in the slightest degree sinful. We should never equate the football player who struts into the end zone with arrogant chest pounding displays of human effort with God who desires the praise of His people. When people desire to be praised it’s an ugly thing, but when God desires to be praised it’s a wonderful thing. God’s jealousy is not birthed out of arrogance and sin. Instead, it flows out of the purity of God’s holiness (Ex. 20:3-5).
Revelation 4:11 — Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.
Today I’m continuing a short 5-part series on the five solas of the Reformation. The five solas are specific Latin slogans that emerged from the Reformation era as a means of identifying specific doctrinal positions that stand in contrast to the beliefs and practices of the Roman Catholic Church. The slogans are:
- Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone)
- Sola Gratia (Grace Alone)
- Sola Fide (Faith Alone)
- Solus Christus (Christ Alone)
- Soli Deo Gloria (To God Alone Be Glory)
How can the phrase, sola gratia (grace alone) be misunderstood and misapplied by Protestant believers? In the attempt to stand in a continual protest of the works based salvation of the Roman Catholic Church, we must continue to point out that God saves sinners by grace alone—not based on the value of any works. However, we must never diminish the need for good works to be present in the life of a child of God.
Defining Sola Gratia
When the Reformers used the phrase, sola gratia, they were insisting that God saves sinners based on God’s divine grace alone. The idea was nothing new, in fact it was taken from the clear teachings of Scripture. In Ephesians 2:1-10, the apostle Paul makes his point clear—salvation is by grace alone, apart from works, so that no one will be capable of boasting. As the Reformers were protesting the selling of indulgences and various other practices of the Roman Catholic Church—their motivation in sola gratia was to point upward to God and make a clear point that God saves sinners by his grace and anything added to God’s grace is no longer grace.
Misunderstanding the Catholic Church
When people make the claim that the Roman Catholic Church does not believe in the saving grace of God, that actually is a misrepresentation of the Catholic’s position. According to official Roman Catholic doctrine, they do embrace the teachings of salvation by the grace of God. However, where the problem arises is when Protestants attach the word “alone” to the statement. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that sinners are saved by the grace of God, but not all alone. For instance, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church 1257:
“Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament. The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude . . . “
While it should be clear that baptism is a work of man in obedience to God’s command, sometimes it is overlooked because it’s one of the ordinances of the church. However, if you continue to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church 2010, you will see these troubling statements regarding works:
”The specific precepts of the natural law, because their observance, demanded by the Creator, is necessary for salvation,”
At the Council of Trent, the Roman Catholic Church made this frightening statement to anyone who embraced salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone:
“If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema,” (Council of Trent, Canons on Justification, Canon 9).
Misunderstanding Sola Gratia
Not only do people often misunderstand sola Scriptura, but they likewise misunderstand and misrepresent the intent behind sola gratia. While we as helpless sinners are saved by God’s grace alone, the grace of God should never be alone in the life of a believer. In other words, works do not save a sinner, but good works are present in the life of a believer as a direct result of the changed life by the grace of God. Hear Paul in his letter to the church at Galatia:
yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified (Gal 2:16).
The Judaizers had crept into the church in Galatia and were teaching a salvation by faith in Jesus, but they added circumcision to the equation. Suddenly, it was no longer salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone for the forgiveness of sins. They added works to the formula. In doing so, they changed the gospel from God’s gospel to something else—and Paul gave a stern warning to such practices in the opening words to the church at Galatia (see Gal. 1:6-9).
As we turn over to James, we see language that perhaps seems to be contradictory. James argues for works to be present and active in the life of a believer. James writes, “But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:18). James’ point is clear—the works of a person’s life reveals their true spiritual condition. Faith without works is dead and lifeless which points to the reality of a person who has never experienced the grace of God.
Do you have good works that flow out of God’s grace in your life? Charles Spurgeon once wrote the following statement, “Although we are sure that men are not saved for the sake of their works, yet we are equally sure that no man will be saved without them.” 
Don’t misrepresent sola gratia by denying the need for good works and a pursuit of holiness in the life of a child of God. At the same time, never lean upon good works as a means of your salvation.
- Charles Spurgeon, The New Park Street Pulpit, 4:265.
One of the most comforting passages in the Bible is found in Romans 10:9-10 and Romans 10:13 where we see a clear promise to all who call upon the name of the Lord of salvation. This should bring comfort to us each time we read over this section of Scripture. We hear preachers stand and call people to respond to God claiming that God will never turn anyone away. Is that true at all times and in all situation? Is there ever a time when a sinner cannot be saved? Certainly we can all agree that after death, such a time exists. However, what about during the lifetime of a particular person, is there a time when he or she cannot be saved?
God Saves Sinners
In Acts 9, we see the story of Saul of Tarsus and how God humbled the learned Pharisee and brought him to a place of submission. If God can save a Saul of Tarsus (whose names was eventually changed to Paul), anyone can be saved. In fact, the story of the apostle Paul’s conversion should bring us hope that nobody in our family or on the school campus is beyond the saving reach of God. God is capable of saving the vilest offender. In fact, God loves to save sinners.
As we read about the city of Nineveh, we often focus on the story of the disobedient Jonah and his time in the belly of a large fish while completely missing the reality of God’s saving grace for a wicked people. When you study about the deep depravity of the people of Nineveh, it should cause our hearts to swell with joy as we see God save them. They didn’t deserve mercy and grace, but God acted through his grace unconditionally and delivered them from their condition of peril. In short, God loves to save sinners.
God Does Not Always Save Sinners
As we think about the work of God in saving sinners, is there ever a time when God refuses to save someone who requests salvation? Would God ever turn anyone down who called upon his name? Although greatly controversial, it’s true that God doesn’t always save everyone who calls on his name. In Psalm 18, we find the testimony of King David and how God spared him when he was on the run from Saul and his men. Notice what David says in Psalm 18:39-42:
For you equipped me with strength for the battle; you made those who rise against me sink under me. You made my enemies turn their backs to me, and those who hated me I destroyed. They cried for help, but there was none to save; they cried to the LORD, but he did not answer them. I beat them fine as dust before the wind; I cast them out like the mire of the streets.
In this particular case, it’s clear that God was saving David—not his enemies. When the enemies of God surrounded David, he was spared by God’s plan which involved the destruction of his enemies. It could be that their prayer was insincere and selfish in order to manipulate God and avoid defeat. God knows the heats of men and cannot be fooled. We have here a clear example of people crying out to the LORD and he refused to answer them.
In another place in the Old Testament, we find in Micah 3 where those who were opposed to God’s people cried out and he chose not to answer their request for salvation. We see this in Micah 3:4:
Then they will cry to the LORD, but he will not answer them; he will hide his face from them at that time, because they have made their deeds evil.
It could be once again that their prayers were insincere and selfishly motivated, but yet again, we find that God refused to answer them and went on to hide his face from them. Although we can say with certainty that God loves to save sinners and even the most vile person can be saved, we must also recognize that God is not obligated to save anyone. Furthermore, we must realize that God is not unrighteous by not saving everyone. God chooses to save sinners unconditionally and acts in mercy to save those who do not deserve it. That includes all of God’s children.
We find other passages in the Old Testament such as Jeremiah 11:11-14 and Ezekiel 8:15-18 where God says, “Therefore, thus says the LORD, Behold, I am bringing disaster upon them that they cannot escape. Though they cry to me, I will not listen to them” (Jer. 11:11). Be sure these are difficult passages indeed, but the difficulty of God’s holy justice and his choice to judge sinners is not removed by the sweetness of his mercy and grace on others. God’s choice to save sinners and God’s choice to judge sinners must never be held up in contradiction to one another (Rom. 9:20-24).
We must never approach God as if he’s merely a genie who offers up grace like a magic potion to overcome our sin. Nor should we approach God as if he’s simply at our disposal like a glorified cosmic bellhop. God is sovereign. God is good. God always does right. God is right to save sinners and to satisfy his justice through the death of his Son Jesus, and he is likewise right to deny salvation to sinners.
If you are a Christian today, this should cause your heart to swell with renewed gratitude. If you are not a Christian and know that you need God’s grace and mercy to rid you of your sin and to reconcile you to God—you should turn to him today and plead for salvation. God loves to save sinners. With a sincere heart, cast yourself upon his mercy trusting that Christ Jesus is your only hope in this life and for all eternity.
On Sunday, September 4th, Pope Francis led in the canonization service that pronounced sainthood upon the well known Catholic figure from recent history—Mother Teresa. With Vatican City pulsating with a crowd that exceeded 120,000, Pope Francis bestowed the highest Roman Catholic honor upon Mother Teresa, in effect, making her Saint Teresa of Calcutta. Did Mother Teresa need Pope Francis’ help in reaching the level of saint? Was this ceremony necessary?
How to Become a Saint in the Roman Catholic Religion
The process to be recognized as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church is a bit technical and lengthy. The overview is as follows:
- The person must be dead for a minimum of 5 years.
- The person must have “fame of sanctity” or “fame of martyrdom.”
- Typically the Bishop of the Diocese initiates the investigation of the person’s life.
- The investigations looks to see if any special favor or miracle has been granted through the person’s life.
- The candidate’s writings are thoroughly examined to confirm that nothing heretical (against the Roman Catholic Church’s beliefs) are taught.
- Upon the end of the investigation, a transumptum (a faithful copy) duly authenticated and sealed, is submitted to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints.
- Next, they examine to see if the candidate was a martyr of the faith.
- If the candidate was not a martyr, they examine the person’s life to see if exemplary sacrifice and charity was performed in love for his or her neighbor. Was this person’s life lived out in a heroic manner?
- Beatification is the next process, and the candidate will receive this in the case of martyrdom. If not martyred for the faith, the candidate must be credited with a miracle.
- After beatification, the candidate will be recognized as a saint in a specific city, region, diocese, or religious family.
- After beatification, another miracle is needed for canonization and the formal declaration of sainthood.
As you can see, this is a lengthy process that takes time to validate. Once the candidate reaches the final step and is pronounced a saint, their name can be officially used in the Roman Catholic Church’s liturgy during official worship. It is also believed that a saint can receive prayers in the act of mediation. According to the Roman Catholic Church’s catechism, they teach the following:
“We believe in the communion of all the faithful of Christ, those who are pilgrims on earth, the dead who are being purified, and the blessed in heaven, all together forming one Church; and we believe that in this communion, the merciful love of God and his saints is always [attentive] to our prayers” (Paul VI, CPG § 30).
How to Become a Saint According to the Bible
Since Scripture is our final authority, we turn to the pages of sacred Scripture for answers on the subject of sainthood. A survey of the New Testament provides the following usages of the word saint:
- Philippians 4:21 – Referencing the living.
- Matthew 27:52 – Referencing the dead.
- Acts 9:13 – Referencing the living.
- Acts 9:32 – Referencing the living.
- Acts 9:41 – Referencing the living.
- Acts 26:10 – Referencing the dead.
- Romans 1:7 -Referencing the living.
- Romans 8:27 – Referencing the living.
- Romans 12:13 – Referencing the living.
- Romans 15:25, 26, 31 – Referencing the living.
- Romans 16:2 – Referencing the living.
- Romans 16:15 – Referencing the living.
- 1 Corinthians 1:2 – Referencing the living.
- 1 Corinthians 6:1, 2 – Referencing the living.
- 1 Corinthians 14:33 – Referencing the living.
- 1 Corinthians 16:1 – Referencing the living.
- 1 Corinthians 16:15 – Referencing the living.
- 2 Corinthians 1:1 – Referencing the living.
- 2 Corinthians 8:4 – Referencing the living.
- 2 Corinthians 9:1 – Referencing the living.
- 2 Corinthians 9:12 – Referencing the living.
- 2 Corinthians 13:13 – Referencing the living.
- Ephesians 1:1 – Referencing the living.
- Ephesians 1:15 – Referencing the living.
- Ephesians 1:18 – Referencing the living.
- Ephesians 2:19 – Referencing the living.
- Ephesians 3:8 – Referencing the living.
- Ephesians 3:18 – Referencing the living.
- Ephesians 4:12 – Referencing the living.
- Ephesians 5:3 – Referencing the living.
- Ephesians 6:18 – Referencing the living.
- Philippians 1:1 – Referencing the living.
- Philippians 4:22 – Referencing the living.
- Colossians 1:2 – Referencing the living.
- Colossians 1:4 – Referencing the living.
- Colossians 1:12 – Referencing the dead.
- Colossians 1:26 – Referencing the living.
- 1 Thessalonians 3:13 – Referencing the dead.
- 2 Thessalonians 1:10 – Referencing the living.
- 1 Timothy 5:10 – Referencing the living.
- Philemon 5 – Referencing the living.
- Philemon 7 – Referencing the living.
- Hebrews 6:10 – Referencing the living.
- Hebrews 13:24 – Referencing the living.
- Jude 3 – Referencing the living.
- Revelation 5:8 – Referencing the dead.
- Revelation 8:3, 4 – Referencing the dead.
- Revelation 11:18 – Referencing the dead.
- Revelation 13:7 – Referencing the living.
- Revelation 13:10 – Referencing the living.
- Revelation 14:12 – Referencing the living.
- Revelation 16:6 – Referencing the dead.
- Revelation 17:6 – Referencing the dead.
- Revelation 18:20 – Referencing the dead.
- Revelation 18:24 – Referencing the dead.
- Revelation 19:8 – Referencing the living.
- Revelation 20:9 – Referencing the living.
The overwhelming majority of Scripture uses the word “saint” in reference to a living person, someone who was not dead and had not gone through a formal process of confirmation and canonization. In fact, if we’re honest, the way the word “saint” is used in the New Testament is primarily focused upon normal Christians among the church. The entire church in specific places were referenced by the word “saint” as opposed to a higher class of special holy ones. The word “saint” is used as a description for saved people in the New Testament. Therefore, all true believers are saints based upon their faith in Christ.
It should likewise be noted that in no place in Scripture do we see people praying to the saints. This is the case for two main reasons. First of all, the overwhelming majority of usages of the term “saint” in the New Testament involves living people at the time the letter was written. It would seem odd for Paul to pray to Peter in order to speak to God, right? Should it not seem odd for a person today to pray to Mary or to pray to Peter in order to reach God? Especially since the Bible clearly states that Jesus is our one Mediator who stands between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5).
The way a person becomes a saint according to the New Testament is to have a brokenness over sin and faith in God through Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Rom. 6:23; Rom. 3:10; Rom. 10:13; Acts 3:19). In Christ’s finished work on the cross, and that work alone, can a sinner find mercy and forgiveness from God (Is. 53:10; 1 Pet. 2:24). Jesus said that He is the exclusive means of reconciliation (John 14:6).
It is impossible for a sinner to perform works of righteousness in order to please God (Titus 3:5). Did Mother Teresa need Pope Francis to become a saint? Absolutely not. Mother Teresa needed Jesus Christ alone rather than the pope and the Roman Catholic Church. Unfortunately, she spent many years in doubt and finished her life in darkness. She wrote:
“I am told God lives in me — and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul,” she wrote at one point. “I want God with all the power of my soul — and yet between us there is terrible separation.” On another occasion she wrote: “I feel just that terrible pain of loss, of God not wanting me, of God not being God, of God not really existing.” 
- Letters of Mother Teresa — See Washington Post Article – “Mother Teresa, about to be named a saint, felt terrible pain ‘of God not wanting me’”
|Guest Article: Dr. Chip Thoronton serves as the lead pastor of the First Baptist Church of Springville, AL. He is married to his wife Kerri and they have four children.
William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, was asked by the media: What are the dangers that confront the coming century? One danger he mentioned was, “Salvation without regeneration.” He was speaking of the 20th century, but his assessment was remarkably prophetic.
A person can be a church member, attend religious societies, pray at the supper table, listen to Christian music, wear a cross, or abstain from sex until marriage . . . yet not be saved because their heart remains unregenerate. What exactly is regeneration?
Regeneration / Circumcision
Regeneration is that secret operation of the Holy Spirit whereby He imparts spiritual life to a sinner, thereby enabling the sinner to repent and believe the gospel. Scripture uses other phrases to describe it: new birth, quickening our heart, or circumcision of the heart. For instance, God says, “[A] Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter” (Romans 2:29). What does this “circumcision” mean?
It would have been familiar to the Jew. OT circumcision, initially, was a physical cutting away of the foreskin of the flesh to identify one as belonging to God. It later came to represent a spiritual circumcision: the cutting away of the calloused foreskin of the heart, which identifies one as belonging to God (Deuteronomy 30:6). What does such “heart-circumcision” look like?
Paul witnessed it first-hand. He came to a city and preached by the riverside. One woman, Lydia, listened. She looked like a believer; she was a worshiper of God. Yet, her heart remained unregenerate. Scripture says, “The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well” (Acts 16:14-15). The Spirit circumcised her heart, enabling her to believe the gospel.
The Danger of Salvation Without Regeneration
Why is regeneration (heart-circumcision) important? First, it has eternal ramifications. The Jews thought they were saved because of their outward deeds, never realizing they needed a heart-change. Many today think the same: they claim salvation, but in reality they don’t have it. Why? Because salvation is not a matter of external deeds. It is an internal heart-change (external deeds will, of course, follow).
Second, it has earthly ramifications for the church’s witness. The problem with the church’s witness today is not the media, the culture, the left-wing liberals, or the right-wing radicals. Those are all outside forces. The problem with the church’s witness comes from inside: unregenerate people who think they are saved. The #1 reason people tell me they will not come to church is because the church is full of hypocrites. Yes, (we all know) that is merely an excuse, but they are not entirely wrong, either. The church is full of hypocrites: the ones who boast of salvation but whose hearts remain unregenerate. The ancient Jews were no different: “You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written ‘The Name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you’” (Romans 2:23-24). Could it be today: you who boast in your salvation dishonor God by acting unsaved? . . . (Perhaps) that is why the Name of God is blasphemed among the nation.
I have 3 boys. When they were born, I made a strange request: to watch them be circumcised. Very strange, I know. But hear me out. I knew what true circumcision meant. It served as a graphic reminder to me. You see, for 16 years I claimed salvation, but wasn’t saved. I talked the talk, I was a church member, I tithed. But my heart had not been circumcised. That graphic image would forever remind me of the day God cut through the callousness of my heart, causing me to cry out to Him and fling myself upon the mercies of Christ. It was not a result of my works; it was God’s gift to me (Ephesians 2:9).
William Booth was right. One danger facing his century and ours is salvation without regeneration.
In perhaps the most famous passage of Scripture in the New Testament, Jesus made a statement to a man named Nicodemus that has echoed through history. Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). From this point, we can know assuredly that the phrase “born again” was not coined by Jimmy Carter. Instead, it was coined by Jesus Christ. But, what exactly does being born again look like and how does it happen? How can a person have assurance that they have or have not been born again?
Defining the New Birth
First of all, we must look into John 3 to see the true definition of the new birth. It may come as a bit of a shock to some, but Jesus was not commanding Nicodemus to be born again. Furthermore, Jesus has never commanded us to be born again. What Jesus was communicating to Nicodemus was the fact that unless a person is born again, that individual will not see the kingdom of God. The new birth is necessary to see and inherit the kingdom of God, but the new birth is outside of our power to merely perform it. Contrary to popular evangelical opinion, you’re not born again when you “ask Jesus into your heart.” In fact, we don’t see people asking Jesus into their hearts in the New Testament. In the New Testament, we see references to regeneration, repentance, and faith. The work of salvation involves ten specific points and being born again (regeneration) is one of the ten.
Order of Salvation:
1. Election (God’s choice of people to be saved)
2. The Gospel Call (proclaiming the message of the gospel)
3. Regeneration (being born again)
4. Conversion (faith and repentance)
5. Justification (right legal standing)
6. Adoption (membership in God’s family)
7. Sanctification (right conduct of life)
8. Perseverance (remaining a Christian)
9. Death (going to be with the Lord)
10. Glorification (receiving a resurrection body)
*List taken from Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology, Chapter 32.
In order to illustrate His point regarding the sovereignty of God in the act of regeneration, Jesus went on in John 3:7-8 to make the following statement:
Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’  The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Just as the wind comes on its own and blows across the landscape, we cannot see the wind, control the wind, or prevent the wind. The wind comes and the only thing we can do is observe the effects. In the same manner the Holy Spirit moves upon people and causes them to be born again by applying the power of the gospel to them. This is what Paul was saying when he wrote to the church at Ephesus and said these words:
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins  in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.  But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,  even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved (Ephesians 2:1-5).
Paul placed the emphasis of the new birth upon the power of God as He “made us alive together with Christ” and as he concludes, he points out that it’s a work of grace. In short, the new birth is not something that we perform in the flesh (Titus 3:3-7). It’s completely a work of God.
Assurance of the New Birth
We do not cooperate with God in the work of salvation. From start to finish, the work of salvation is a work of God. He chose us before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1), He sent His Son to die for us (Is. 53), He commissioned His followers to preach and teach the gospel (Matt. 28), He commissioned the Holy Spirit to provide the new birth (John 3), and then He gave to the new believer the gifts of repentance and faith (2 Tim. 2:25; Eph. 2:8-9).
Just as there is evidence that a wind storm has blown across the landscape as it leaves debris and other visual effects behind, we can have assurance that we’ve been born again based on the following biblical evidence:
- The new birth causes a person to repent (2 Tim. 2:25; Mark 1:15).
- The new birth causes a person to have faith in Christ alone for salvation (John 14:6).
- The new birth causes a person to hate sin (Ps. 97:10).
- The new birth causes a person to love God and His righteousness (Mark 12:30; Matt. 6:33).
- The new birth causes a person to hate the world (1 John 2:15).
- The new birth causes a person to have an appetite for holiness (1 Pet. 1:16).
- The new birth causes a person to desire to follow Christ in baptism (Matt. 28:19).
- The new birth causes a person to desire to identify with the people of God through a local church (Acts 2:42-47).
- The new birth results in a love for God’s people – not a hatred and dislike for them (1 Pet. 4:8; 1 John 4:7).
- The new birth causes a person to want to know more about God through His Word – the Bible (Ps. 119; Ps. 19).
- The new birth causes a person to change in order to conform to Christ (2 Cor. 5:17; Rom. 12:1-2).
A true child of God will not walk away from Him. Some people talk about how they were a Christian for many years before they finally walked away from God. That is simply not true. The only reason a person can walk away from God is because that individual was never a true Christian. Genuine Christianity is a permanent reality. It does not mean that a life of rebellion and hardship will not occur, but it does mean that the rebellious person will be disciplined by the loving Father and brought to a place of repentance and restoration (Heb. 12:6).
Do you love the world and the things of this world or do you love God? Read 1 John and ask yourself at the conclusion of each paragraph, “Is this me?”