by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
But to us a much more interesting and fascinating question is this: What is the relationship of regeneration to the word that is preached? There are a number of texts that suggest that our regeneration takes place through and by means of the word. Let me suggest two to you. James 1:18 : ‘Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth , that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.’ Then there is 1 Peter 1:23 : ‘Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God.’ However, you will remember that in the last lecture I drew a distinction between the act of regeneration and the coming to birth and said that there may be a long interval between the two. Now I suggest to you that both these texts I have quoted are concerned about the bringing to birth. And it is certainly the word that does that. It is the effectual call, coming through the medium of the word, that, as it were, brings the seed of life to life, so that the birth takes place. But if you keep in mind the distinction between the generation and the actual coming to birth, I think you will see the difference. The word is used, not in the act of generating, but in the bringing out into life of that which has already been implanted within.
At this point some would quote the parable of the sower and the different types of ground, and emphasise that the life is in the seed and so on. But surely the whole point of that parable is to emphasise the character of the ground into which the seed is put. It is stony ground? Is it encompassed by thorns? And so on. Or is it good ground? In other words, the teaching in that parable is that what really matters is that fundamental something which we call the disposition. And if that has been changed and put right, then, when the word comes, it will be effectual; it will lead to the result; it will yield the fruit.
Indeed, the Scriptures do seem to teach that quite explicitly. Take, for instance, John 6:65 : ‘Therefore said I unto you,’ says our Lord, ‘that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.’ Now there were the people, hearing the same word, and as we have already seen, some came, some went away — what was the difference? It is this, our Lord, says, ‘… except it were given unto them of my Father.’ And again I would remind you of what we are told about Lydia. It was because the Lord had ‘opened her heart’ that she attended to Paul and received the word. It was not the word that opened her heart, it was the act of the Lord. It was this that led to her reception of the word. That surely must be the order. And the argument of 1 Corinthians 2 , especially verses 12 to 15 , obviously teaches the same thing.