Regeneration, Christian Graces, and Assurance of Salvation (Gurnall)

When God sovereignly regenerates a sinner, that person is renewed, reborn, made new.  “…If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Cor. 5:17 NASB; c.f. Gal. 6:15).  The person then walks in the newness of life (Rom. 6:4).  This doesn’t mean a regenerate person is sinless and perfect, but it does mean that his whole person is made new by God.  William Gurnall put it this way:

“As natural corruption is a universal principle of all sin that sours the whole lump of man’s nature; so sanctifying grace is a universal principle that sweetly seasons and renews the whole man at once, though not completely.  Grace indeed grows by steps, but is born at once.  The new creature has all its parts formed together, though not its degrees.  One grace may, we confess, be perceived to stir and so come to be noticed by the Christian before other graces.”

Gurnall is saying that when God renews and regenerates a person, that person is given true faith, repentance, love, fear of God, evangelical obedience, and so forth.  These things are called “graces.”  Sometimes a Christian sees one of his graces more than another, but it doesn’t mean that other graces aren’t there.  God doesn’t just give someone repentance but not godly fear or true faith.  Gurnall said that some parts of the world have been discovered before other parts of the world, but the whole world has been in existence since God created it.  So it is with Christian graces: God has given them all to all his people, even if we don’t always discover them or notice all these graces at once.

So what?  Why is this important?  Well, as Gurnall noted, knowing this fact gives relief to the Christian when he’s in doubt of his salvation.  Just because a Christian can’t immediately discern godly fear doesn’t mean he should “unsaint” himself.  If you don’t have godly fear but you do have a sincere desire to please him, be assured that God’s grace is at work in you, and in time you’ll notice godly fear.  Or if your faith is seemingly gone but you have a hearty sorrow when you sin against God, don’t despair.  Know that you are a new creation in Christ, and you will again see your faith – it is there!  Here’s Gurnall again:

“As by taking hold of one link you may draw up the rest of the chain that lies under water, so by discovering one grace, you may bring all to sight.  …This holy kindred of graces go ever together, they are knit, as members of the body, one to another.  Though you see only the face of a man, yet you do not doubt that the whole man is there.”

Here’s a good quote to end on:

“Moses would not go out of Egypt with half his company (Ex. 10).  Either all must go or none shall stir.  Neither will the Spirit of God come into a soul with half his sanctifying graces, but with all his train.”

(These slightly modernized and edited quotes are found in the beginning of “Direction Ninth” in Gurnall’s The Christian in Complete Armor.)

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI

 

The Fear of God vs The Fear of Man

  The fear of man (a.k.a. peer pressure, the disease to please, addicted to approval, etc.) is something with which all of us struggle – some more, some less.  Proverbs 25.29 is clear: “Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the LORD means safety” (NLT).   Here are a few self-diagnosis questions on this topic for you to consider (based on my reading of Ed Welch’s excellent book, When People Are Big And God Is Small).

Do you get embarrassed easily?    Do you protect your reputation by using little ‘white’ lies?  Do you second guess yourself all the time because you’re worried what others might think of your decision?  Do you get a hair cut or purchase clothing based on what your friends will say?  Do you find yourself saying “yes” all the time because you want people to like you?  Do you avoid rebuking others when they sin because you don’t want conflict?  Do you stress out, cleaning your house furiously before visitors come – because you don’t want them to think you’re a slob?  Do you fish for complements by putting yourself down?  The list goes on, of course.

The fear of man is all mixed up with selfishness, pride, and idolatry, among other sins.  Welch puts it this way concerning idolatry.

“As in all idolatry, the idol we choose to worship soon owns us.  The object we fear overcomes us.  Although insignificant in itself, the idol becomes huge and rules us.  It tells us how to think, what to feel, and how to act.  It tells us what to wear, it tells us to laugh at the dirty joke, and it tells us to be frightened to death that we might have to get up in front of a group and say something.  The whole strategy backfires.  We never expect that using people to meet our desires leaves us enslaved to them” (p. 46).

 I really can’t recommend Welch’s book enough.  The fear of man is even prevalent in churches: some water down their worship and sermons so as not to offend anyone.  Others avoid church discipline because they want people’s approval, not rejection.  Christians sing quietly in worship because they don’t want others to hear them if they’re off key, and some Christians never pray with their brothers/sisters because they don’t want to sound stupid in their prayers.  And the list, of course, goes on.  This – the fear of man – is one of those sins we need to be attacking all the time!

Another book very much worth reading on this topic is Lou Priolo’s Pleasing People: How Not To Be An Approval Junkie.  I enjoyed both books, and will certainly use them often in my studies.  I do have to say, though, that I think Welch’s remedy’s for fighting the fear of man was more grace filled than Priolo’s (which is the subject of another post). 

Feel free to mention other such books if you know of any.  I’ve also read John Flavel’s book on fear, but that was more about fear in general (though it was an outstanding book!).

shane lems

sunnyside, washington