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THE REGENERATION OF THE APOSTLES –
AN EASTER SERMON!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Lord’s Day Morning, April 8, 2007
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

“But God…even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4-5).


Dr. D. James Kennedy said,

The great genius of Greek philosophy, Plato, was asked: ‘shall we live again?’ His response: ‘I hope so, but no man may know.’ The tombs of Mohammed or Buddha or Confucius are occupied, but the tomb of Christ is empty to this day. Why then do we believe in the Resurrection of Christ, this most important of all Christian doctrines…? Even the cross of Christ without the Resurrection symbolizes simply that One who was rejected, that One who was hanged and accursed by God. But it is by the Resurrection that Christ is declared the Son of God with power, and it is by the Resurrection that His atoning sacrifice is declared to be accepted by God. This is the center of the Christian faith. With it everything stands or falls (D. James Kennedy, Ph.D., Why I Believe, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2005, pp. 141-142).

Dr. Kennedy asked a very important question, “Why then do we believe in the resurrection of Christ, this most important of all Christian doctrines…?” (ibid.).

Why, indeed, do Christians believe that Jesus rose physically from the dead? The answer is given in our text,

“But God…even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4-5).

Once we were “dead in sins,” but now we have been “quickened…together with Christ.” The same power of God that raised Jesus from death, has quickened us, made us alive, “together with Christ.” The Apostle Paul teaches that there is a union between Christ and those who are converted. Thus, God has made alive, regenerated, “quickened us together with Christ.” We are made alive with Him when we are converted.  

Dr. Kennedy asked, “Why then do we believe in the resurrection of Christ?” The answer is given in our text,

“But God…even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4-5).

Why do we believe in Christ’s bodily resurrection? Because God “hath quickened us,” made us alive, regenerated us, “together with Christ.” As spiritually dead people, God graciously regenerated us, thus quickening us, “with Christ.”  As Christ was raised to life, the convert is made alive with Him!  

Now let us examine and apply our text in simple language, so everyone can understand what we are saying. The text naturally divides into two points.

I. First, we were dead in sins.

“But God…even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4-5).

Note that the Apostle speaks of “we.” We were dead in sins. The Apostle lists himself, along with all other converts, in that statement, “We were dead in sins.” It refers to all Christians, who were once dead spiritually, but it also refers to the Apostle himself, “We were dead in sins.”

The Apostle Paul himself had been dead in sin prior to his regeneration and conversion. He had been spiritually dead. The depth of his spiritual death is given to us in Acts 9:1-2. He was so “dead in sins” that he was

“breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9:1).

If ever a man “were dead in sins” it was Paul before his life-changing conversion.  But then he encountered the resurrected Christ on the Road to Damascus. He went into the city to fast and pray for three days (Acts 9:9). Then, after three days, he was counselled by a Christian leader named Ananias. It was then that

“there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith” (Acts 9:18).

He was regenerated, born again, in that very moment.  Paul was awakened on the Road to Damascus, but he was not born again (quickened) until three days later.

The Apostle Paul knew very well that he had been “dead in sins.” He also knew he was “quickened…together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:5). That’s why he uses the words “we” and “us” in our text. He included himself with the many others who had been quickened by the new birth.

“But God…even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4-5).

How about the other Apostles? Are they also included in the text?

“But God…even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4-5).

Did those words “we” and “us” apply to the other Apostles as well?  

I say that those words in Ephesians 2:5 not only described what happened to the Apostle Paul, but also to every one of the Apostles, except Judas. I say that all the Apostles were as certainly “dead in sins” as Paul was before they experienced the new birth. And I say that the words “we” and “us” apply equally to all the Apostles who were regenerated by the new birth. Every one of them would certainly have agreed with those words,

“But God…even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4-5).

The other Apostles had been “dead in sins,” but then quickened, regenerated, born again, “together with Christ,” just as Paul was.

When did the quickening of the new birth occur in the lives of the Apostles? We must be most careful here, for we are living in a time of deep apostasy, due to “decisionism,” the synergistic interpretation of salvation promoted by the late nineteenth and twentieth century evangelists, beginning with Charles G. Finney (1792-1875), an interpretation which produced the overwhelming error of Pelagianism, so rampant in our churches today. "Decisionists” think that the Apostles were saved by human acts of obedience, commitments, prayers and mental beliefs, not by a God-given new birth. But, in contrast to decisionism, we say that all the Apostles, not just Paul, are spoken of in our text. The verse plainly tells us that the new birth is the experience of every convert! Everyone must be regenerated. Jesus said, “Ye must be born again” (John 3:3). His statement applies universally, to all, including the Apostles.

“But God…even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4-5).

All the Apostles were dead in sins before they experienced the new birth, "together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:5). The Apostles were not born again when Christ first called them to follow Him. That is clear in the case of Judas. Although Judas made an outward “decision” to follow Jesus, he was still “dead in sins.” He was so “dead in sins” that he stole money from the other Disciples, betrayed Jesus, and the Saviour called him “the son of perdition” (John 17:12), that is, “the son of [ruin and damnation, Strong].” Judas showed clearly that he was still “dead in sins” (Ephesians 2:5), when he betrayed Christ and then committed the sinful act of suicide. Although Judas had followed Christ for nearly three years, he remained a lost man, “dead in sins” (Ephesians 2:5), “the son of perdition.”

Were the other Apostles much different? I don’t see it in the Bible. They did many good works, they tried to obey Christ, but they were blind when it came to the Gospel! They remind me of Luther and Whitefield and Wesley and Bunyan, who tried so hard to be Christians before they were converted, but failed so miserably.  Like these men, the Apostles tried to obey Christ. But, also like them, they were "dead in sins" and blind to the Gospel.  

None of the Apostles believed Jesus when He told them He was going to be crucified. They did not believe the Gospel when Christ preached it to them! How could they have been born again?

Remember that Jesus told them exactly what would happen to Him before they got to Jerusalem.

“From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day” (Matthew 16:21).

How did Peter respond to that?

“Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying…this shall not be unto thee. But he [Jesus] turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men” (Matthew 16:22-23).

So, it is clear that Peter did not believe that Jesus needed to be crucified and resurrected! Peter did not believe the Gospel! What could be clearer on the page of Scripture?

And all during their time with Jesus, we read that none of the Apostles believed the Gospel. For instance,

“While they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men: And they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again. And they were exceeding sorry” (Matthew 17:22-23).

They “were sorry” when they heard the Gospel! Why were the Apostles sorry? Because they didn’t understand or believe the Gospel, that’s why! That was made very clear a short time later, when Jesus said to them,

“Let these sayings sink down into your ears: for the Son of man shall be delivered into the hands of men. But they understood not this saying, and it was hid from them, that they perceived it not: and they feared to ask him of that saying” (Luke 9:44-45).

So, when they heard the Gospel (in Matthew 17:22-23) “they were exceeding sorry.” And when they heard about it again (in Luke 9:44-45) “it was hid from them, that they perceived it not.” The Gospel was hid from them and “they understood not.” The Scofield Study Bible says, “Mary alone of the disciples understood Christ’s repeated declaration concerning his own death and resurrection” (note on Luke 11:13). And I think that note is correct, because Mary anointed Him for His burial (John 12:7). None of the Apostles had even a glimpse of illumination regarding the Gospel, Christ’s death to pay for our sins, and His resurrection, to give us life. They “understood” nothing of the Gospel, and did not believe it when it was preached to them by Jesus. Why were they so blind to the Gospel? They were not born again! Paul spoke of them, among others, when he said,

“Even when we were dead in sins…” (Ephesians 2:5).

Now isn’t that your situation? Isn’t it true that you have thought, “Why, how can I believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ? What proof is there? It’s impossible for me to believe that He rose from the dead!” Now, I think some of you have had thoughts like that, haven’t you? So there you have it! You are no different from the Apostles before they were born again!

“Even when we were dead in sins…” (Ephesians 2:5).

That includes you with them, “dead in sins.” No wonder you don’t believe the crowning point of the Gospel – Christ’s resurrection!

You can do your best to follow Jesus, as the Apostles did. You can do your best to win souls and pray, as the Apostles did. You can even have glimpses of truth, as Peter did, when God showed him the truth that Christ is the Messiah. So a lost man can have some illumination. But until God regenerates a man, he remains “dead in sins” (Ephesians 2:5). We were spiritually dead. The Apostles were also spiritually dead, just as we are before we experience the new birth. That’s the first point. Lost people are absolutely dead spiritually, just like the Apostles.

II. Second, we were quickened.

“But God…even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4-5).

When we were dead, we were “quickened.” The Greek word means “made alive” (W. E. Vine). This word is used in Ephesians 2:5, and again in Colossians 2:13, to speak of “spiritual life with Christ, imparted to believers at their conversion” (Vine, ibid.).

“[God] hath quickened us together with Christ.” What does that mean? Spurgeon said, “It means that the life which lives in a saved man is the same life which dwells in Christ…whoever trusts Christ has touched him, and by touching him he has received the virtue of eternal life: to trust in the Saviour of the world is to be quickened [born again] through him” (C. H. Spurgeon, “Resurrection with Christ,” The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Pilgrim Publications, 1976, volume XIV, p. 214).

When did that happen to the Apostles? When were they “quickened”? When were they “made alive” by regeneration? When were they “born again”? I have thought about that question for many years, and it seems to me that they were not “quickened” until the risen Jesus came to them after He rose from the dead, and

“breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost” (John 20:22).

I strongly agree with Dr. J. Vernon McGee’s comment on John 20:22.  Dr. McGee said, 

It is true that Simon Peter showed some discernment when he said Jesus is the Christ, but it was just a few minutes later that he told Jesus not to go to the cross and die [which seems to be Satanic advice to me]. I personally believe that at the moment our Lord breathed on them, and said, ‘Receive ye the Holy Ghost,’ these men were regenerated [born again]. Before this, they had not been indwelt by the Spirit of God. The expression “breathed on them” occurs only one other time in the Bible. In Genesis [2:7] God breathed into Adam the breath of life. I believe here [in John 20:22] that Jesus Christ breathed into these men eternal life by giving them the Spirit of God (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983, volume IV, p. 498).

Dr. W. A. Criswell took a similar position on John 20:22 when he said,

As the life of Adam was imparted by God’s breath, so the gift of spiritual life [the new birth] to the apostles was imparted by Christ’s breath (W. A. Criswell, Ph.D., The Criswell Study Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1979, p. 1271, note on John 20:22).

Dr. John Peter Lange said that the early Christian preachers, Clement of Alexandria and Eusebius, were basically in agreement with Dr. McGee and Dr. Criswell on John 20:22 (see John Peter Lange, D.D., Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, Zondervan Publishing House, n.d., commentary on John 20:22, The Gospel of John, page 620).

Dr. Adam Clarke also took a similar position on John 20:22 when he said,

He breathed on them. Intimating, by this, that they were made new men…for in this breathing he evidently alluded to the first creation of man, when God breathed into him the breath of life, and he became a living soul: the breath or Spirit of God being the grand principle and cause of [man’s] spiritual and Divine life [that is, the new birth]. (Adam Clarke, D.D., Clarke’s Commentary, Abingdon, n.d., volume 5, p. 658, note on John 20:22).

Also, The Bible Knowledge Commentary (edited by John F. Walvoord, Th.D., and Roy B. Zuck, Th.D., Victor Books, 1983, New Testament edition, p. 343, note on John 20:22) declares that,

The image and wording of breathing on them recalls God’s creative work in making Adam [Genesis 2:7]. Now this post-Resurrection “breathing” was a new kind of creative work for they would…become new creations (Ephesians 2:8-10).

If John 20:22 isn’t a statement about the Apostles being born again, then what does it mean?  I am not satisfied with any other explanation.  

And, finally, The Applied New Testament Commentary (Kingsway Publications, 1997, p. 448) says concerning John 20:22,

Then Jesus…gave them the Holy Spirit…[this] giving of the Holy Spirit was the most important event in the lives of the disciples. Because it was then that they were born again of the Spirit (see John 3:3, 5, and comment). This is when they received true and full faith. This is when they received spiritual life. No man can be a true Christian without having received the Holy Spirit [from] Christ.

Thus, Clement of Alexandria, Eusebius, Dr. Adam Clarke, Dr. W. A. Criswell, the Walvoord and Zuck Bible Knowledge Commentary, and The Applied New Testament Commentary, are all in basic agreement with Dr. J. Vernon McGee, when he said,

I personally believe that at the moment our Lord breathed on them, and said, ‘Receive ye the Holy Ghost,’ these men were regenerated [i.e. born again]…I believe here [in John 20:22] that Jesus Christ breathed into these men eternal life by giving them the Spirit of God (McGee, ibid.).

“I believe that the moment our Lord breathed on them…these men were regenerated [i.e. born again]” (McGee, ibid.). And I, therefore, do not believe they were regenerated before that moment, when Christ breathed the Spirit on them, and they were finally born again!

One more witness to the fact that the Disciples were born again, when the resurrected Jesus breathed on them, is the classical Preacher’s Complete Homiletical Commentary (Baker Book House, n.d., note on John 20:22) which says,

By…giving them an effusion of the Spirit, Christ associated them with Himself in His life as the Risen one…It is not baptism or church membership or knowledge of Scripture that makes men and women true disciples of Christ. Now, as of old, it is the gift of the Holy Ghost.

It was only then, as Dr. McGee said, that “these men were regenerated [i.e. born again]” (McGee, ibid.).

The Apostle Paul put it bluntly when he said,

“Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Romans 8:9).

If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ, and he is not a born again Christian! And this was the sad condition of the Apostles before Christ breathed on them, and they were born again!

With that, we come back to our text,

“But God…even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4-5).

I conclude, therefore, that the Apostles, including Peter and Paul, had to be regenerated, born again, and that this happened to them when they encountered Jesus after His resurrection, through the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit – which drew them to Jesus by faith, and gave them the new birth, conversion, and new life in Christ.

From that moment, when they were finally born again, they were new creatures in Christ Jesus! It can be said of the Apostles, and of anyone else who trusts Jesus and is born again, that

“If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new”
      (II Corinthians 5:17).

That was certainly true of the Disciples after Christ appeared to them, breathed on them and they were born again! They were new creatures, new creations, born again, converted! No longer confused about the death and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, they went out of that room fearless men, proclaiming boldly, at the cost of their lives, that Christ died for sinners and that He had risen physically from the dead! They were “new creatures” because they had been born again!

“Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost”
      (John 20:19-22).

Nothing could stop them after they encountered the risen Christ, and received the Holy Spirit and were born again! They were now on fire! They went everywhere preaching to hardened Jews and pagan Romans – “Christ is risen! Christ is risen!” They preached the resurrection of Christ fearlessly after they were born again! Read the Book of Acts!  That was their new message even when they faced death for proclaiming it!  These men were changed from fearfulness to absolute courage after they were converted by the power of God in Christ, after they were born again!

Now, a word of application, to you who are still unconverted, and I am through.

“But God…even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4-5).

Just as the Apostles were quickened, you, too, can be quickened! You, too, can be born again. You, too, can have a living encounter with the risen Christ, and be joined to Him by faith. And, when that happens, you will never be the same, as the Apostles were never the same! It happened to the Apostles and it can happen to you! Why else would Jesus say to you,

“Ye must be born again” (John 3:7)? 

We believe in the resurrection of Christ because we are born again. Being born again unites us to Christ in a living faith, and causes our souls to receive the glorious truth – “He is not here: for he is risen, as he said” (Matthew 28:6). Are you born again? Have you encountered the risen Christ? You will never be truly certain of Christ’s bodily resurrection until you are born again!

You must humble yourself or you will not be born again. You must feel that you are a sinner. You must be very serious about coming to Jesus and being cleansed from your sin by His Blood. You must “strive to enter in” to Christ (Luke 13:24).

When your heart truly seeks Christ, you will find Him, because God will quicken you! When you struggle to come to Christ by faith, you will be united with Him, washed from your sins by His Blood, regenerated, born again, truly converted. Then you will become a real, living Christian – just like the Apostles!  

Then, like the Apostles, you will know, by real faith, that Christ has risen from the dead, and that He has saved your soul from the penalty of sin. May you strive to enter in to Christ. May you come to Him by faith. When you encounter Jesus and are born again, your life will not be the same. Like the born again Apostles, you will then be on fire for Christ! May you soon be born again. May you soon be able to say with Paul and the other Apostles,

“But God…even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4-5).

Amen!

(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: John 20:11-22.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:

“The Strife Is O’er” (translated by Francis Pott, 1832-1909)/
“Ye Must Be Born Again” (by William T. Sleeper, 1819-1904).


THE OUTLINE OF

THE REGENERATION OF THE APOSTLES –
AN EASTER SERMON!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.


“But God…even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4-5).

I.   First, we were dead in sins, Ephesians 2:5a; Acts 9:1, 9, 18;
John 3:3; 17:12; Matthew 16:21-23; 17:22-23; Luke 9:44-45;
John 12:7.

II.  Second, we were quickened, Ephesians 2:5b; Colossians 2:13;
John 20:22; Genesis 2:7; Ephesians 2:8-10; John 3:3, 5;
Romans 8:9; II Corinthians 5:17; John 20:19-22; 3:7;
Matthew 28:6; Luke 13:24.