This question relates to what is often called "monergism" in
various writings which attempt to expound about the New Birth. The term refers
to the fact that the efficient power in the New Birth is the Holy Spirit. But
"monergism" does not imply the idea of a "direct operation" before, without, or
apart from "means" or instrumentality; rather, it simply means that all of
the regenerating power is of the Holy Spirit. The unregenerate hear the call
because the Holy Spirit's power accompanies the Gospel, or Word of God (1
Thessalonians 1:5; 2 Thessalonians 2:13, 14).
The case of Lazarus is a
good parallel to a sinner's being born again by means of hearing the Word.
Lazarus was dead, but when the Word of Christ went forth, power accompanied that
Word and Lazarus obeyed it. The instrumentality of his being raised from the
dead was the Word, accompanied by the efficient power of the Spirit of God.
I was recently reading on the Internet a rather good sermon on the
raising of Lazarus, and the brother said:
>>Second, the miracle of
the raising of Lazarus shows that all raisings from the dead, including all
raisings from spiritual death through the new birth, are monergistic. When
someone is raised to life in Christ by the new birth, it is done by the power of
God in Christ alone. There is no other cause. The cause of the new birth
is the power of God in Christ alone! That's monergism!>>
certainly true . . . so far as it goes. Unfortunately, this particular sermon,
good as it is otherwise, was somewhat lacking, for it does not emphasize the
parallel of the necessary instrumentality used in the monergistic action
of raising Lazarus -- namely, the Word spoken by Christ, "Lazarus, come
The parallel to this Word to Lazarus is the Gospel preached to
the sinner. As Lazarus was instrumentally raised by the Word of Christ, so the
sinner is raised or given new life by the instrumentality of the Gospel, or
When we talk about "monergism" -- especially in regard to the New
Birth -- it is important to emphasize that while all the efficient power in the
New Birth is of God, He does not work apart from instrumentality, and
this instrument is the Word of His power. He does not simply reach out and give
a new birth to a person without the use of the instrumental means of His Word.
The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16) and men are
"begotten" thru it as the means (1 Cor. 4:15).
God created this world by
the instrumentality of His Word: "He spake, and it was done" (Psalm 33:9). The
winds and the water obey Him (Luke 8:25). And it is by, with, or through the
Word that men are born again. It is not a "direct operation" apart from the
instrumentality of the Word of God.
As Stephen Charnock says in
his great work on this subject --
the gospel is the instrument whereby God brings the soul forth in a new
birth . . . The gospel is this instrument. . . . It is therefore a
necessary instrument. . . . So according to the method God has set of
men's actions, it is necessary that this regeneration should be by some word
as an instrument, for God has given understanding and will to man. We cannot
understand anything, or will anything, but what is proposed to us by some
external object; as our eye can see nothing but what is without us, our hand
take nothing but what is without us, so it is necessary that God by the word
should set before us those things which our understandings may apprehend,
and our wills embrace. . . .
It is necessary
the revelation of this gospel we have should be made. There is a necessity
of some revelation, for no man can see that which is not visible, or hear that
which has no sound, or know that which is not declared. There is also a
necessity of the revelation of this gospel, since faith is a great part of this
work. How can any man believe that God is good in Christ, without knowing that
he has so declared himself? Since the Spirit takes of Christ's, and shows it to
us, there must be a revelation of Christ, and the goodness of God in Christ,
before we can believe.
Though the manner of
this revelation may be different, and the Spirit may renew in an extraordinary
manner, yet this is the instrument whereby all spiritual begettings are
wrought; the manner may be by visions, dreams, by reading or hearing, yet
still it is the gospel which is revealed; the matter revealed is the same,
though the formal revelation or manner may be different.
Paul's regeneration was by a vision, for at
that vision of the light, and that voice of Christ, I suppose him to be renewed,
because of that full resignation of his will to Christ, Acts ix. 6, yet the
matter of the revelation was the same, that Christ was the Messiah, for so Paul
understands it, in giving him the title of Lord. Though God may communicate
himself without the written word to some that have it not, yet according to his
appointment, not without a revelation of what is in that
Bob L. Ross
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