Quotes by Ben Peays
Here is how it happens. When the Spirit of God works savingly through the Word of God in a person’s life, God regenerates the heart (i.e., He gives him new birth), making him a new creation. As a new creation this newborn Christian recognizes his sin and turns to God for forgiveness. God enables Him to believe the Word. This is always the case (John 6:37). This belief is what God uses to bind or unite someone to Christ. It is through this union that we then experience the benefits of Christ’s work. We are considered righteous because we are now able to inherit Christ’s righteousness. It is imputed to us or considered effective in our life. We are not just innocent, but positively righteous. Moreover, since Christ is life (John 14:6), once we are united to Christ, we inherit abundant, eternal life from Him (John 6:39-40).
New birth is a term used to describe the new life the Spirit produces when we trust Jesus Christ. It’s also called regeneration, but perhaps the most popular term is born again (from a Greek word gennao, meaning “bear” or “beget”). When we are regenerated, we receive the new birth. We are all born into this world spiritually dead. When God in His grace regenerates our hearts, giving us new life, we become a new creation. God convicts us of our sin and enables us to believe in Christ. This belief unites us to Christ, and in this union we receive the benefits of His work on the cross – justification and forgiveness of sin and eternal life.
Salvation (i.e., being saved from sin, death, and hell) is a gift from God. So experiencing the new birth, which is an aspect of salvation, is also a gift from God. We are unable to do this on our own. We are not saved by our works. God makes the first move. He stirs, He causes, He reaches out to us in love to make this happen. Just as babies are unable to cause themselves to be born physically, we are unable to cause ourselves to be reborn spiritually (See John 3:3-6).
Regeneration and faith in Christ should be seen as taking place in the same instant. From a human perspective, it may seem like faith precedes regeneration. But from Gods’ perspective, regeneration precedes faith. We cannot believe unless we are born again. The important factor is that God, in His grace, has enabled both regeneration and faith despite your sin. You believe because God has enabled you to do so. Belief is actually an evidence that someone has experienced the new birth. “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God” (1 John 5:1).
Unfortunately, many Christians think of salvation only in terms of getting into heaven and avoiding hell. Christ becomes not a way unto life, but merely a way to avoid death, reduced to a get-out-of-jail-free card or – even worse – fire insurance (you’ve seen those bumper stickers). This leaves many Christians understanding what they are saved from, but not having a good understanding of what they are saved into. One danger of evangelism that reduces Christianity to making a decision between heaven and hell is that it overlooks the value of the new birth for our earthly life.
Repentance and faith infallibly and inseparably flow from regeneration. True repentance takes place when God enables a heart to turn away from sin. This does not mean believers will not still struggle with sin, but rather they are aware of their sin and they feel sorrow and conviction before God. Faith is more than intellectual assent. It is a God-given, unmistakable holding on to Christ and a total surrender to God’s authority (Rom. 3:21-31). This change from rebellion to submission, from unbelief to intelligent trust, is the unambiguous fruit of regeneration.