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ON THE RUIN AND REGENERATION OF FALLEN MAN

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, March 6, 2011

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again” (John 3:6-7).


The “flesh” comes from Adam. The new birth comes from the Spirit of God. But why do we need the new birth? That question cannot be adequately answered unless we understand the Fall of man – and his present condition as a depraved sinner. This sermon is given to show what the Bible teaches on these subjects. Most people will not begin to feel a need for the new birth unless they first feel their own sinful depravity. That is why the Bible tells us about the Fall and man’s natural state.

I. First, the original state of mankind.

The first man and woman were created holy, and for a time served God without sin.

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them”
       (Genesis 1:27).

Man was created in the “image” of God. This means that man was created like God. God is a spirit. The human soul is a spirit. The essential attributes of a spirit are intellect (reason), sensibility (conscience), and will. Dr. Charles Hodge said, “God is a Spirit. The essential attributes of spirit are reason, conscience, and will...In making man after his own image, therefore, God endowed him with those attributes which belong to his own nature as a spirit...If we were not like God, we could not know him. We would be as the beasts which perish” (Charles Hodge, Ph.D., Systematic Theology, Eerdmans, 1946, volume II, p. 97).

The original man, therefore, had both righteousness and holiness. Ecclesiastes 7:29 confirms this, “God hath made man upright.” This is also shown by Genesis 1:31,

“God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.”

“This includes man, and would not be true if man had been [sinful or] morally imperfect” (Henry C. Thiessen, Ph.D., Introductory Lectures on Systematic Theology, Eerdmans, 1949 edition, p. 221). W. G. T. Shedd said that man was created holy, “Holiness is more than innocence...man was not only negatively innocent, but positively holy. Man’s regenerate condition is a restoration of his pristine state [before the Fall]...‘which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness,’ Ephesians 4:24” (W. G. T. Shedd, Ph.D., Dogmatic Theology, Scribners, 1889, volume II, p. 96). Dr. John L. Dagg said, “How long the first [man and woman] continued in their original state of innocence and [holiness] we have no way of knowing; but that they did so continue for a time, is [clear in the Book of Genesis]. A free [communion] with [God] existed...We may profitably look back to the holy and happy state in which our first parents stood when they came from the hand of their Creator; and we may, with good effect, remember from whence we are fallen. [Thinking about] this subject will [help us accept] the gracious plan of restoration which [Christ gives as] the [last] Adam” (John L. Dagg, D.D., A Manual of Theology, Southern Baptist Publication Society, 1858, pp. 141, 143-144).

“And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit”
       (I Corinthians 15:45).

The first Adam plunged the human race into sin. Christ, “the last Adam,” came to redeem His people from sin.

II. Second, the Fall of mankind.

The first man violated God’s law, and brought death to himself and all his descendants. God’s law was given, with a penalty for breaking it,

“And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die”
       (Genesis 2:16-17).

Dr. Dagg said, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked. He that disobeys God, rejects his reign; and so God views it. The test of obedience [given] to Adam was easy; and this very fact makes [his] transgression the more inexcusable. It showed the greatness of Abraham’s faith, that [he] stood so severe a test when he was required to offer up his son Isaac; and it proves the greatness of Adam’s sin, that it was committed, when he could so easily have avoided it” (Dagg, ibid. p. 146). Adam, in fact, shook his fist in the face of God. Dr. Dagg said, “No greater evil [could have been committed by Adam] than when he ate the forbidden fruit” (Dagg, ibid.). He turned his back on God, listened to the serpent, defied God, ruined his own soul, and the souls of all his descendants.

“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men...”
       (Romans 5:12).

“For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

“For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous” (Romans 5:19).

The Geneva Bible of 1599 gives this footnote on Romans 5:19, “These two men [Adam and Christ] are set as two...roots, so that out of the one, sin by nature, out of the other, righteousness by grace doth spring forth on others. So then sin entered not into us only by following the steps of our forefather [Adam], but we take corruption from him by inheritance.”

III. Third, the present state of mankind.

Dr. Dagg said, “The evil [consequences that came from] the disobedience of our first parents were not confined to them personally, but have [passed down from them] on their descendants also. Adam had been created in the image of God; but when that image had been [ruined by sin], he begat a son in his own likeness (Genesis 5:3). So all [Adam’s] descendants since have borne the image of [their fallen forefather], and have been like him, not only in character, but in condition” (Dagg, ibid., p. 150).

Thus all men in all ages and nations have violated the law of God. Why? Because, as descendants of Adam, they are “by nature the children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3),

“Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart” (Ephesians 4:18).

“For there is no man which sinneth not” (II Chronicles 6:36).

“For we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes. Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” (Romans 3:9-19).

In his present condition, as a descendant from Adam, man is now “under sin” (Romans 3:9), that is, he is under the dominion of sin, which Romans 3:9-19 states so clearly. As the Apostle Paul put it, man is “dead in sins” (Ephesians 2:5).

How can any fallen descendant of Adam be saved from the enslavement and corruption of sin? The answer is this – “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7). In your first birth, you were born a son of Adam, dead in sin. You must be born again to have life now and in eternity.

Regeneration is the theological term which Christ called the new birth (John 3:3, 7). Dr. John L. Dagg (1794-1884), an early Southern Baptist theologian, said that regeneration (the new birth) produces a “change in the character,” a “change of heart.” He said, “So great is the change produced, that the subject is called a new creature” (John L. Dagg, D.D., A Manual of Theology, Southern Baptist Publication Society, 1858, p. 277). Then Dr. Dagg quoted this text,

“If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature”
       (II Corinthians 5:17).

The renowned Oxford University trained evangelist George Whitefield (1714-1770) preached on the new birth constantly to enormous crowds in the open fields of Wales, England, Scotland and America during the First Great Awakening. The second sermon he gave, as a mere youth of twenty-two, was on this text, and was published in August, 1737. I will now give you an edited and shortened version of Whitefield’s sermon (with some comments of my own) from his sermon titled, “Regeneration” (George Whitefield, Sermons, Pietan Publications, 1994 edition, volume III, pp. 107-118). His text was,

“If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature”
       (II Corinthians 5:17).

Whitefield said that the doctrine of regeneration (the new birth) is one of the most fundamental doctrines of Christianity. It is the subject on which our salvation rests. It is also a point on which evangelical Christians, of all denominations, say they agree. Yet the new birth is seldom preached, and many evangelicals have not experienced it today. Most who call themselves Christians have not so much as heard whether there is any such thing as regeneration. Thus, we are now in the same sad condition that the churches were in when Whitefield started preaching.

It is true that most people in our churches say they believe the Bible. But if you tell them they must be regenerated, born again, renewed in the inmost faculties of their minds before they can truthfully call Christ “Lord,” or can have any hope of salvation by His Blood; they are ready to cry out with Nicodemus, “How can these things be?” or with the Athenians, “What will this babbler say?” If we tell church members that they are lost, and that they must be regenerated, most of them will think we are preaching strange doctrines, because we preach unto them Christ, and the new birth! Many preachers themselves are afraid of having regeneration preached in their pulpits – partly because they fear losing lost church members, and even because some of these preachers themselves have not experienced regeneration. To them, and to vast numbers of unconverted people in their congregations, we must say, with the Apostle Paul,

“If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature”
       (II Corinthians 5:17).

But we must also say, If any man is not in Christ, he is not a new creature, not a real Christian, but rather a lost sinner headed for the eternal flames of Hell!

“If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature”
       (II Corinthians 5:17).

Following Whitefield’s sermon,

IV. Fourth, the necessity of a man being in Christ.

The text says, “If any man be in Christ.” What does that mean? It does not mean that you have “made a decision” for Christ! It does not mean that you have “gone forward” and been baptized. Millions have been baptized who are only nominal Christians – Christians in name – but not “in Christ”! If you are not “in Christ,” at the Last Judgment He will dismiss you to the flames of Hell, saying,

“Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 22:13).

To be “in Christ” means more than an outward profession of Him. To be in Him means to partake of the benefits of His suffering and death on the Cross. To be in Christ is to come to Him and to be mystically united to Him through faith. To be in Christ is to be, “quickened...together with Christ...and...raised...up together, and made [to] sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus...Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:5, 6, 9). If you have been drawn to Christ, and are “in Christ,” then you are a new creature. If you have not been drawn to Christ you are still a lost sinner. You are in no sense a new creature.

“If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature”
       (II Corinthians 5:17).

V. Fifth, what it means for a man to be a new creature.

The text says, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature” (II Corinthians 5:17). This is not a physical change. Nicodemus ignorantly thought of the new birth that way. He said to Christ, “Can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?” (John 3:4). Even if you could do that, how would it help you to become a new creature? Since “that which is born of the flesh is flesh” (John 3:6) still, you would be the same fallen, depraved person you are now.

No, “a new creature” means that your heart is completely changed. The Scofield center note “r” next to the word “creature” renders the Greek word as “creation.” “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation.” He is still the same man in essence, but a new heart (what he loves and hates) and a new mind (what he thinks) have been created in him. As David prayed,

“Create in me a clean heart, O God” (Psalm 51:10).

Or, as God promised in Ezekiel,

“A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26).

That is regeneration! That is the new birth! That is what makes you “a new creature,” a new creation!

It is difficult to explain the new birth to sinners. It is enough to say that unless God grants you the new birth you will never escape from punishment for your sin, and you will never enter the kingdom of God. Christ said, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Here are some proofs of the Apostle’s statement,

“If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature”
       (II Corinthians 5:17).

Many texts could be quoted from the Old Testament to prove the new birth, how the Psalmist begged God to make him “a new heart,” and put “a right spirit within him” (Psalm 51:10), how the prophets warned the people that they needed “new hearts” to turn unto the Lord their God.

In the New Testament, Christ spoke at length about the new birth in John 3:3-8. Christ made the necessity of the new birth very clear when He said, “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7). The Apostle Paul also spoke of regeneration (the new birth) when he said we must be “quickened” (Ephesians 2:5), and when he said, “be renewed in the spirit” (Ephesians 4:23), and, again, when he said we are to be “saved...by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:5). If there were no other verses in the Bible, I think that this text alone should be enough to prove that you must be born again!

“If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature
       (II Corinthians 5:17).

All of these verses show the absolute necessity of a thorough and real change of heart!

Yet multitudes of people in our churches know nothing of this change of heart. And this must be the result of them hearing so few (if any!) sermons on conversion and the new birth. Christ spoke of those whose “ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them” (Matthew 13:15).

Another proof of the need for regeneration (the new birth) is the totally depraved condition of man in his state of sin. The Bible speaks of man as “conceived” and born in a state of sin (Psalm 51:5); as having no good thing dwelling in him (Romans 7:18), as “carnal, sold under sin” (Romans 7:14) – as having a mind that is against God (Romans 8:7) – as “Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart” (Ephesians 4:18). Since unregenerated men are in such a horrible condition, can anyone think that such a filthy, corrupted, polluted wretch can live with a pure and holy God before he is changed? No, we might as well think that light can have communion with darkness, or of Christ dwelling with Satan! Your lost and sinful condition proves beyond a doubt that you must be made a new creature in Christ or you will never be at peace with God, nor can you ever hope to go to God, and be in Heaven, when you die. You must be made a new creation, or you will die in your sins.

“If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature”
       (II Corinthians 5:17).

Many people think they can go to Heaven with sinful minds and hearts, and suddenly enjoy being there after they die. And they might do so if the true Heaven were like the Muslim paradise where, they say, one can partake of many sinful pleasures. But since the joys of the real Heaven are only spiritual, and no unclean thing can possibly enter it, there is an absolute necessity that you be changed. You must experience a total renovation of your depraved nature before you could ever enjoy those Heavenly pleasures. That is why Christ did not say, “[Unless] a man be born again he shall not” – but, instead, He said, “[Unless] a man be born again, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:3, 5). Unless your heart is changed by the new birth you “cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).

What enjoyment can the most lovely music bring to one who is deaf? What pleasure can the most beautiful painting bring to a blind man? Can a man with no taste buds working in his mouth enjoy a rich meal? Can a filthy pig be pleased with a fine garden of flowers? Certainly not! Each of them would have to be changed in their very natures to be able to enjoy these blessings. And it is the same with your soul. After you die your soul cannot be changed. If your soul delights in God here on earth, it will enjoy God in Heaven. But if you have no enjoyment of God, and do not love being in church now, nothing will change when you die. If you are not changed so you can enjoy being in church now, you would not enjoy being in Heaven after you die. There is only one place for you, if you are not born again – and that is Hell.

“If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature”
       (II Corinthians 5:17).

The new birth is brought about by the Spirit of God. Jesus said, “Except a man be born of...the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). Some people, like my own wife, are converted instantly, but the usual way God’s Spirit brings about regeneration is to first make a person think of some great sin he has committed, a sin he would not want his mother to know about, and certainly not God! In thinking about this great sin, he is then led to think about other sins in his life. Then he is led to think, “How could I have done such sinful things unless I was a sinner by nature?” Then God’s Spirit shows him that he is, in fact, sinful to the core, born a sinner, and sinful in his very heart. He may then try to change his ways and be a better person. But, no matter how hard he tries, he finds that he cannot change his own heart. He becomes desperate to be rid of his sin. Some even begin to weep over their sins (as did Luther, John Bunyan, Whitefield – and many others in times of revival). He cries out, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24). Now God’s Spirit has prepared him to be born again. Now he is made to feel his need for Christ. Now he feels that no one but Christ can change him. He feels now that only the Blood of Christ can cleanse his sin. Now he finds that he is enabled to come to Christ. When Christ says, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden...” (Matthew 11:28) he finds that he can do so by God’s grace. The Spirit of God enables him to come to Christ, and he is born again. His heart is converted. He is a new creation in Christ Jesus!

“If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature”
       (II Corinthians 5:17).

Now he can joyfully sing with old John Newton,

Amazing grace! how sweet the sound, That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found; Was blind, but now I see.

’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear The hour I first believed!
   (“Amazing Grace” by John Newton, 1725-1807).

We pray that you will soon be born again by the grace of God the Father, through the death and Blood of Christ the Son, and by the convicting and drawing power of the Holy Spirit, one God in three persons! Amen.

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: John 3:1-7.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Ye Must Be Born Again” (by William T. Sleeper, 1819-1904).


THE OUTLINE OF

ON THE RUIN AND REGENERATION OF FALLEN MAN

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again” (John 3:6-7).

I.   First, the original state of mankind, Genesis 1:27; Ecclesiastes 7:29;
Genesis 1:31; Ephesians 4:24; I Corinthians 15:45.

II.  Second, the Fall of mankind, Genesis 2:16-17; Romans 5:12; 6:23; 5:19.

III. Third, the present state of mankind, Genesis 5:3; Ephesians 2:3; 4:18;
II Chronicles 6:36; Romans 3:9-19; Ephesians 2:5; John 3:7;
II Corinthians 5:17.

IV. Fourth, the necessity of a man being in Christ, Matthew 22:13;
Ephesians 2:5, 6, 9.

V.  Fifth, what it means for a man to be a new creature, John 3:4, 6;
Psalm 51:10; Ezekiel 36:26; John 3:3; Psalm 51:10;
John 3:3-8, 7; Ephesians 2:5; 4:23; Titus 3:5; Matthew 13:15;
Psalm 51:5; Romans 7:18, 14; 8:7; Ephesians 4:18; John 3:3, 5;
Romans 7:24; Matthew 11:28.