Fundamentals of the Faith
By William Dudley Nowlin, D.D., LL.D.
Regeneration the Work of the Holy Spirit, Wrought in the Heart, Through the Use
the Appointed Means —the Preached Gospel— on Terms of Repentance and Faith;
Which Work Is of Grace and Means Eternal Redemption Through the Blood of Christ;
and Which Work Is Evidenced by a Changed Life.
The declaration, “Ye must be born again,” is divine in its injunction and universal in its application. The change which takes place in this new birth is what we call regeneration. With out this new birth, Jesus says, no man can enter the kingdom of heaven; therefore, regeneration is of paramount importance. The new life required by the disciples of Christ needs a new heart. It is folly to undertake to purify the lives of men so long as Satan is reigning in their hearts. Here is where those engaged in ‘‘social service” fail. They are working at the wrong end of the task. Jesus did not come to fix up a world for men to live in, but to fix up men to live in the world. Get the heart right and the life that flows from it will right itself. One cannot straighten the heart of a tree by trimming off the knots, neither can one purify the heart of man by putting on him clean linen. “All dead in trespasses and in sin.” “None good; no, not one.” “Except ye repent ye shall all perish.” “He that believeth not shall be damned.” And yet an American writer of some note says he believes that “every child is God’s from the beginning, capable of growth and unfolding until he attains unto the perfection of the Father.” Where, in this system of religion, is there any place for the new birth, for being “born of the spirit,” “born again” or “born from above”?
Jesus said, “Ye are of your father the devil,” and Paul said, “In times past we were all by nature the children of wrath”—not the children of God. The doctrine that “all are by nature the children of God” is a dangerous and insidious heresy.
REGENERATION THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
When Jesus said “you must be born again,” He also said “you must be born of the Spirit” (John 3:3, 7). Notice again that Jesus says “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit” (John 3, 8). “Born of the Spirit.” means a spiritual birth. The change which takes place in regeneration is a spiritual change, first, because wrought by the spirit of God, and, in the second place, because it takes place in the spirit of the subject, and, in the third place, because the fruits of the change are spiritual. Regeneration does not change the physical or mental make-up of a man, further than the influence that the regenerated heart exerts over the thought and conduct of the man. This often makes a great change in the outward appearance of a man, especially if he has lived a very vicious and filthy life. Under these conditions, the change is often so marvelous that the man can hardly be recognized. This, however, is not regeneration, but one of the results of regeneration.
THE MEANS OF REGENERATION
Fortunately we are not left to guess at the means used in regeneration. The apostle to the Gentiles says “The gospel is the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16). If the gospel is the power of God unto salvation there is no salvation without it. Again we are told that it “pleased God through the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Cor. 1:21). Not foolish preaching, nor the preaching of foolishness, but the foolishness of preaching. Paul in Romans (10:13, 15) says “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” “How, then, shall they call on him in whom they have not believed And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard and how shall they hear without a preacher And how shall they preach, except they be sent?”
“If you will just “back track” on this Scripture you will have God’s order in the salvation of men. Preacher sent, gospel preached, people hear, they believe, call on the Lord, are saved. These Scriptures are sufficient to make clear the fact that the Holy Spirit uses the gospel as a means of salvation. Not all that is preached is gospel, however. It has been well said in speaking of the days of Paul’s labors: “In that day there was no blessing without bleeding. And if we were bleeding more today we would be blessing more. Oh, for the passion of those early heralds of the cross. This is the one supreme need today. The gospel of Christ is still the power of God unto salvation. The need today is not more ‘pep,’ but more power; not more cash, but more consecration; not more hurrying, but more tarrying; not more efficiency, but more of the all-sufficiency of Christ.” Our success, we are told, is “not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit saith the Lord.” The question is being asked “Is preaching dead?” Well, yes, some of it is very dead, and the demand for dead preaching is dead, but that preaching which is enlightening, illustrating, moving and transforming is not dead, neither is the demand for such preaching dead. “Preach the Word.”
Now again we are not left to guess, but are told plainly that the terms of salvation are: “Except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish” Luke 13: 3). “He that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). These Scriptures, with many others, make it perfectly clear that the terms of salvation are Repentance and Faith. This means that there is no salvation without these. No doubt there are some who are ready to say “that makes religion too narrow.” It might be well for those who sneer at everything that is “narrow” and boast of being “broad” to remember that Jesus said the “narrow way” leads to life eternal, while the “broad way” leads to destruction. Truth is narrow and dogmatic. And it is the truth that makes men free. There is much nonsense gotten off these days in the name of “truth.”
We are told by the destructive critics—”advanced thinkers”—that “Truth is not static, so that it may be written down and remain true through the centuries of changing conditions, but is dynamic, ever growing and constantly changing, expressing itself differently at different times in the growing experiences of mankind; so that what was truth two thousand years ago may not be truth at all now, and what is truth now may be error in the future.”
The Bible tells us that the Divine Being is truth. “I am the truth,” and it also tells us that God changes not, but is “the same yesterday and today and forever.” God is truth; God changes not; therefore truth changes not. The science of truth may change, and men’s ideas about the truth may change, but truth never. The science of God (theology) may change, but God never. If the above stated theory were correct, we might expect that somewhere in the future God would become Satan and Satan become God. The thing that is not “static” is the destructive critic’s mind.
Truth is unchangeable. It matters not whether you throw rocks or bouquets at it, it neither dodges nor changes. Our method of approach to truth may change and our method of presenting truth may change, but truth changes not.
There are those who say, “Truth to everyone is that which one’s conscience approves.” Then, when the thief gets the approval of his conscience to steal, stealing is right. When the libertine gets the approval of his conscience to debauch a young woman, adultery is a virtue. When the murderer gets the approval of his conscience to murder, murder is right. The wrong, then, in theft, adultery or murder is in believing it to be wrong. The man who believes such trash has no occasion to hang crepe on his head as proof that his intellect is dead, nor to erect a grave stone over his conscience as proof that it is buried.
The “advanced thinkers” who tell us that there can be no absolute certainty in the religious realm are the very ones who assure us with absolute certainty and with a narrow, dogmatic, intolerant insistence that there can be no supernatural revelation or divine Incarnation. So, whether there is any such thing as absolute certainty in the religious realm or not, depends forsooth upon whether or not it has the approval of the “Higher Critic”!
If our fathers were too much inclined to be absolutely certain about everything, their sons are too much inclined to be absolutely certain about nothing.
REPENTANCE AND FAITH DEFINED
The vital and fundamental nature of repentance will be recognized when we notice that John the Baptist opened his ministry with “Repent ye” (Matt. 1:15), and that Christ began by saying “Repent ye and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15), and that the twelve went out and ‘‘preached that men should repent’’ (Mark 6:12). Repentance is fundamental and indispensable in the Christian religion.
Repentance in the Scriptures always precedes faith. The order is always ‘‘repentance and faith” (Heb. 6:1) or “repent and believe” (Mark 1:15) or “repent that ye might believe” (Matt. 21: 32). Repentance being, as it is, an inward change of purpose resulting in an outward change of life, cannot be performed by one person for another. Repentance is a turning from a life of self and sin to a life of submission and obedience to God’s will. Repentance, as used in the New Testament, means a change of mind, but it is a word of moral significance and does not mean merely a change of opinion. Such a change often takes place without repentance in the New Testament sense. The will is necessarily and directly involved, as well as the emotions, but in scriptural repentance there is a change of mind with reference to sin, a sorrow for sin and a turning from sin. Repentance means sins perceived, sins abhorred and sins abandoned. This change is wrought by the power of God through the Holy Spirit, the word of truth being used as a means to convict the sinner of sin and lead him to forsake it and to resolve henceforth to walk before God in all truth and uprightness.
Dr. Pendleton’s “Christian Doctrines” (p. 264) says: “It is then, a question of great importance, What is repentance? The word of which it is a translation in the New Testament has as its primary meaning ‘after thought,’ and as its secondary meaning ‘a change of mind.’ It is easy to see how the secondary followed the primary signification, for in all ages after-thought has discovered reasons for a change of mind. The discovery has had a close connection with the depravity of human nature and the fallibility of human opinions; Alas, how frequent have been the occasions for a change of mind! In this change of mind, so far as scriptural repentance is concerned, a great deal is involved, as we shall see; but I wish first to show that repentance is internal. I mean by this that it is a change of the mind, the heart, and not of the life, except so far as a change of life results from a change of mind or heart.”
Faith is the laying hold upon eternal life, and is, therefore, a personal matter. Religion, being as it is, a personal matter, admits of no proxy. One person cannot believe for another person. There is an essential difference between BELIEF and FAITH, which many fail to recognize. Belief is the assent of the mind to a proposition based upon the evidence in the case, while faith is the consent of the heart —not a mere question of evidence, but one of will. We often have to believe things we don’t want to believe, but having the evidence, we must believe; and often. we would like to believe things we can’t for lack of evidence. But we do not have to “faith” in or trust a person or thing, against our will. Belief is a question of EVIDENCE, while FAITH is a question of WILL. “Whosoever will may” shows that trusting is a question of will. Believing that God is and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him is belief, based upon evidence, but that is not faith in God. You might believe that until doomsday and be lost. The demons believed that and trembled.
Belief comes before repentance, while faith comes after. From all the evidence, we believe there is a God; that Christ died, was buried and arose from the dead; and that we are alienated from God by sin—this is belief. As a result of this belief conviction seizes us, and as a result of this conviction for sin, we are turned from sin, which is repentance, and lay hold upon Christ by faith, (or “faith” in Christ). Saving faith includes both belief and trust. If asked to give the order of these, I would say evidence, belief, conviction, repentance, faith, salvation. You cannot separate, in point of time, however, faith and salvation. They are simultaneous.
Evidence presented in the gospel, belief produced by evidence, conviction is wrought by the Holy Spirit, repentance is worked by Godly sorrow, faith comes by hearing, and salvation by the blood.
Faith literally means taking God at his word, trusting him to do as he has promised, obeying him though you cannot understand his working in the soul, and you have only his command.
REDEMPTION THROUGH THE BLOOD
To redeem, means to buy back, to ransom from bondage, to rescue, to make atonement for, to save from sin and its consequences. It follows then, that Redemption is the buying back, the rescuing, or saving of-man from sin and its consequences. Man by transgression was alienated from God, and so if he is ever to be brought back into right relationship to him, the ransom or purchase price must be paid. This price is the Blood of Jesus Christ, “The blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth us from all sin’’ (1 John 1:7). “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission’’ (Heb. 9:22); “Christ died for our sins” (1 Cor. 15:3); “Our Savior Jesus Christ who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity” (Titus 2:13, 14). These Scriptures clearly show that man’s redemption is of grace, not of works, through the blood of Christ. How we need to ring out these doctrines! Ruin by the fall, Redemption, through the Blood, Regeneration by the Spirit.
The greatest need of the churches of Jesus Christ today is not money, not learned and eloquent preachers, however desirable these may be, but a ministry with Holy Ghost religion coupled with a John-the-Baptist conviction and courage. Some of our churches seem to be losing their heads over the power of wealth. The power of wealth is insignificant in comparison with the power of the Holy Spirit. A John the Baptist in every church would be worth far more to the cause of Christ than a Join the Rockefeller. “It is not by power nor by might, but by my Spirit saith the Lord.”
A paramount need of this age is the preaching of the old-time gospel in the old-time way by men who believe it with the old-time faith—the gospel of the grace of God which bringeth salvation, preached in its purity, pathos and power without fear or apology, by God-called and Spirit-filled men.
BLOOD REDEMPTION ETERNAL
If “eternal” means eternal, and “everlasting” means everlasting, and “saved” means saved, and “shall never perish” means eternal safety, then, there is no question about how long we are saved. Jesus says, “I give unto them eternal life and they shall never perish” (John 10: 28). “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3: 36). Again Jesus says, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” (John 5: 24). “Though he fall he shall not be utterly cast down” (Ps. 37:24). How can anyone, who accepts God’s Word as true and final, in the face of these positive declarations — “they shall never perish” — “they shall not come into condemnation” — “shall not be utterly cast down” — say “some of them do perish, some of them do come into condemnation, some of them are utterly cast down”? It matters not how many Scriptures may seem to suggest, or imply, or infer, that a redeemed child of God may be lost, these cannot destroy the force of the positive statements of God’s Word.
The very first law of interpretation of the Scriptures is that the doubtful, or inferential, or hypothetical Scriptures must conform to the positive statements. If one of God’s redeemed children is lost there are a number of positive statements in God’s Word that are false; on the other hand, the final salvation of every child of God’s does violence to no Scripture. That is, the fulfillment of no Scripture is dependent upon one of God’s children being lost, while the fulfillment of a number of Scriptures is dependent upon every child of God being saved.
When a thing is purchased and paid for it can only be taken from the purchaser, legally, by establishing the fact that the purchase price was faulty and not as represented; this would do violence to the blood of Christ and put him to an open shame (see Heb. 6:6). The reply might be made, however, that defects in the property purchased might cause the purchaser (Redeemer) to turn it back. The answer is that we can never become worse than we were when redeemed, for we were aliens, enemies and rebels against God. The Redeemer knew all of our faults, even into the future, when he redeemed us. If he would redeem us while we were enemies, certainly he will not cast us off now that we are sons. Hear God on the subject: “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Much more then, being how justified by his blood, shall we be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son; much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life” (Rom. 5:7, 10). This should settle the question with every one who accepts the Bible as God’s Word.
Man’s salvation depends wholly upon what Christ does for him, but man’s rewards depend wholly upon what he does for Christ. That which depends upon God (your salvation) you can’t lose, but that which depends upon you (your rewards) you may lose.
It is maintained by some that the Christian is saved one day and lost the next day; that he is continuously jumping back and forth from God’s territory to the devil’s territory. It follows, then, that salvation is simply a question of on which side of the line death catches one. Alas, for such an outrage on the glorious salvation of Christ!
If this claim were true and God should allow one of his children to die on the devil’s territory, and go to the devil it would prove one of two things: Either God is unable or is unwilling to save his own, which is destructive to the very character of God.
But the claim is made that the devil has the power over death and that he cuts men off at will.
Accepting this premise (that we are ever and anon on the devil’s territory, and that he can cut us off at will), if the devil doesn’t get the last one of us, it is because of one of two things — either he is so kind and merciful that he will not take us, or we are so trifling that he would not have us. If the first is true, we are saved by the grace of the devil, and if the latter is true, we are saved by the disgrace of the devil.
“Wherefore he is able to save to the uttermost all them that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them (Heb. 7:25).
REDEMPTION EVIDENCED IN A CHANGED LIFE
Our great teacher says “By their fruits ye shall know them” (Matt. 7:16). A man is not a Christian because he does Christian deeds, but does Christian deeds because he is a Christian. Fruit is the result of life, not the cause. We are ‘‘created in Christ Jesus unto good works —not by good works— “that we should walk in them’’ (Eph. 2:10). Jesus says, “If a man love me he will keep my words” (John 14: 23).
The Christian serves the Lord, not to be saved, but because he is saved. The gratitude for his salvation, which is by grace, makes the service of the Lord sweet. To every serious young Christian, whether man or woman, comes, sooner or later, the supreme question, “How shall I spend my life?” There are just two philosophies of life. One is that “Life is an opportunity to get all you can and keep all you get.” The other is that “Life is an opportunity for service —to give out all you can.” The latter is certainly the Christian conception of life. Life is one’s opportunity, not to get all one can out of the world, but to put all one can into the world. We are saved to serve.
Until this supreme question is settled, no one is prepared to start out on life’s career. Many of our young people drift out into life without any definite conception, or firm decision, as to life’s attitude toward the world, either socially or religiously. Such a life is without vision and is a drudge; while the life with the proper conception of, and a firm decision as to, life’s attitude toward the world is a joy forever.