Regenerate Membership and a True Politic (Jonathan Leeman)
In the new issue of Credo Magazine, “Born Again: God’s Sovereign Grace in the Miracle of Regeneration,” Jonthan Leeman has contributed an article entitled, “Regenerate Membership and a True Politic.” Jonathan Leeman, an elder at the Capitol Hill Baptist Church and the editorial director of 9Marks, is the author of several books on the local church, including The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love, Church Membership: How the World Knows Who Represents Jesus, and Church Discipline: How the Church Protects the Name of Jesus.
Here is the introduction to Leeman’s article:
The words “regenerate church membership” have always struck me as somewhat polemical, even adversarial. The point of the doctrine, historically at least, is to correct the error of paedobaptism. Focus your eyes on the word regenerate. Church membership is for regenerate believers, not for unregenerate, unbelieving infants.
Also, the doctrine rightly offers pastoral pragmatism a polemical poke. The church growth talk of “belonging before believing,” brandished here and there, blurs the line between church and world. Yes, church gatherings should be friendly, hospitable, and loving. But letting unbelievers believe they “belong” only confuses them about what church really is—a regenerate and repentant assembly.
In short, the doctrine of regenerate church membership exists as a response to error.
Now, the polemical approach serves a good and necessary purpose. But it narrows the scope of the conversation. Unless you are engaging with paedobaptists or church marketers, it is hard to get excited about the topic.
But what if there is something in the doctrine of regenerate church membership for all Christians to see—something glorious? In fact, I believe this oft overlooked and seemingly sectarian doctrine points us to nothing less than the heavenly-sanctioned model of true politics.
Read the rest of Leeman’s article today:
Born Again: God’s Sovereign Grace in the Miracle of Regeneration
While doctrines such as election, justification, and sanctification typically receive all of the attention in theological conversations, the doctrine of regeneration is often forgotten. Yet, it is this doctrine that undergirds the entire order of salvation. It is the initiatory change in regeneration that results in everything else, from faith and repentance to justification, sanctification, and perseverance. All of these other doctrines owe their existence to that first moment when God breaths new spiritual life into the sinner’s dead corpse.
Regeneration, or the new birth, was certainly important to Jesus. In John 3 Jesus tells Nicodemus that unless he is born again he cannot enter the kingdom of God! Jesus goes on to highlight the sovereignty of the Spirit in the new birth as well, comparing him to the wind which blows wherever it pleases. This reminds us that since Jesus’ interaction with Nicodemus there has been a long history of debate over exactly what it means to be “born again,” a debate that has preoccupied the best theological minds, including Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, the Synod of Dort, John Owen, Jonathan Edwards, and many, many others. The key questions in this controversial matter are these: Does God work alone (monergism) to create new spiritual life in depraved sinners, or does God and man cooperate with one another (synergism), man having the final say in whether God’s grace will be accepted or rejected? Also, does regeneration precede and cause conversion (faith and repentance), or is the Spirit’s supernatural work in regeneration conditioned upon man’s will to believe? We believe Scripture overwhelmingly supports the former. Anything else would compromise the sovereignty of God and rob him of his glory in salvation.
Join us in this issue as we explore the doctrine of regeneration, a doctrine so important that Jesus himself felt it was the first thing he needed to address on that dark night when Nicodemus approached him with the most piercing of spiritual questions.
Contributors include Matthew Barrett, Thomas Nettles, Jonathan Leeman, Douglas Sweeney, Leonardo De Chirico, Andy Naselli, and Tom Ascol.
Matthew Barrett, Executive Editor