A Modern-Day Resurrection
As we survey the biblical record, we discover one primary purpose of signs and wonders was to authenticate God’s messengers and to confirm the authority of God’s message.
Therefore, it should not surprise us, that after the Bible was complete with the death of the final apostle near the end of the first century AD, dense constellations of miraculous activity would become less common, if not unnecessary.1
Nevertheless, if we define a miracle as an act of God that accomplishes what is naturally impossible, we must admit that miracles still take place every day—if we know where to look. In Ephesians 2:1-5, the apostle Paul shows us where to look.
What he reveals is our second facet of scandalous grace. In theology, we call it regeneration. Jesus referred to it as being “born again.”
1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
Before he gets to the “greater than we can imagine” news, Paul begins with the “worse than we expected” news. Sinners are not merely wounded. According to biblical anthropology, every human being is dead. Not physically but spiritually.
The result is human beings, in our natural condition, are spiritually blind and deaf, born with a moral predisposition to rebel against the law of God coupled with the inability to respond to the preaching of the gospel. The disease of sin has rendered the human population quite literally the walking dead.
This is why, when preaching, Jesus would qualify his discourses with the statement, “Let him who has ears to hear, hear.” He knew that without the supernatural intervention of the Spirit to give the grace of spiritual hearing, none could understand or respond to the gospel.
A Stunning Turn
After declaring humanity dead in sin, which is a truth boasting more evidence than needs to be brought forward here, Paul makes a stunning turn, where eternity swings open with one word of transition in verse 4, “But...”
While the bad news is worse than we could have imagined, the good news is better than we could have dreamed. Those who were objects of wrath, deserving judgment for rebellion, become objects of divine mercy.
Driven by fervent love, God intervenes to bring the spiritually dead to life with the miracle we call regeneration, which is nothing less than resurrection!
Does God still perform miracles? If you are a disciple of Jesus, your life is proof that he does. The only way someone becomes a true Christian is through the miracle of regenerating grace.
The Source of New Life
Regeneration is a unilateral, sovereign work of the Holy Spirit, whereby we are given new eyes, new ears, and ultimately, a new heart.
The purpose of the new eyes is to see our need for and the Father’s provision of a sin-substitute to endure the judgment we deserve.
The purpose of new ears is for us to hear the voice of the Spirit speaking through the preaching of the gospel.
The purpose of the new heart is that we would be given the ability to respond to the love of God manifested in the cross of Jesus.
Everything becomes new. Not only our eyes, ears, and heart, but our minds, wills, and desires.
Paul writes about the totality of this newness is 2 Corinthians 5:17-18a, saying, “17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
His next line reveals the source of a believer’s new life. With awe-filled solemnity, he confesses, “18 All this is from God...”
All of this is from God.
Regeneration is a gift—pure and simple. We play no part is the miracle of spiritual resurrection. You and I are passive recipients. That is the whole idea of “receiving Christ.”
Fact vs. Feeling
By the way, when we speak of new life, we primarily are talking about the fact not the feeling, as well as the unalterable status of new, not the unavoidable hardness of life circumstances. Let me explain.
New life as a fact is just that. If you receive the grace of forgiveness and reconciliation with God in Christ, you are no longer under condemnation. That is a fact. You may feel as if you should be condemned for ongoing struggles with the flesh. But the fact remains and is to be embraced and treasured. The old is gone—absorbed into the cross without any remaining residue.
Additionally, as you live the new life of a forgiven, beloved child of God, the brokenness of the world will continue to inflict pain and suffering. You may be tempted to think God has abandoned you or is punishing you. No—a thousand times, no.
In Romans 8, Paul foresees this emotional struggle and declares, without hesitation or qualification,
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
As if such circumstances would indicate forsakenness.
36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Nothing can undo what Jesus has done. Not even our sin. Especially not our sin.
If there is one doctrine that magnifies most clearly the sheer grace of God in salvation, it is regeneration. How can s dead, spiritually lifeless sinner be made alive again? If we are to see and hear, we need a miracle. Thank God that is exactly what he provides with regenerating grace.
Theologically, regeneration teaches us that human faith is the result of new life, not the cause of it. We say it like this: regeneration precedes faith.
Practically, regenerating grace is one of the most hopeful doctrines in the Bible. It teaches us no one is so spiritually or morally dead that they can’t be made alive again. Maybe that will spur some of us to pray for those we know and love whom we have assumed too far gone to come home.
Maybe that person is you? Do you see your need for a Savior? Is the Spirit awakening your desire to receive the gift of grace in Jesus, being forgiven of sin and reconciled to God? If so, you have experienced a miracle and I want to celebrate with you by thanking God for making the impossible a reality in your life and mine!
In the Bible, we see the miraculous concentrated around certain people at particular times, usually when a major redemptive event was taking place. For example, we see a cluster of miracles associated with the ministry of Moses in the Old Testament and Jesus in the New. While miraculous events are recorded beyond their ministries, miracles as constellations seem to appear at particularly significant redemptive junctures in biblical history.