Regeneration in the ESV Study Bible
For visitors to Monergism.com who are considering the purchase of the ESV Study Bible, the following may be of particular interest to you. Ever since the ESV Study Bibles have come out I have been reading through some of the notes on various texts and skimming the theological articles so I could report back to you what I found. As you might have guessed, one of the first things looked for was whether the ESV Study Bible would take a clear Christ-honoring stand on the vital doctrinal issue of regeneration. Expecting to find an amorphous commentary that neither monergist nor synergist would be offended by, I am very pleased to report to you that the notes from editors of the ESVSB unambiguously affirm divine monergism in regeneration. Because we believe this is a vital biblical doctrine to understand correctly, we wholeheartedly applaud those editors who decided not to be vague on this issue. We are also thankful for the effort and time it must have taken to put the incredible resources available in this Bible together in one place. May the Lord be pleased to use it to His glory
Here are a few samples of ESVSB comments on the doctrine of regeneration:
On page 2531 of the ESVSB in the article entitled "Biblical Doctrine: An Overview" under the subheading of "salvation" it reads as follows:
From God's vantage point salvation begins with his election of individuals, which is his determination beforehand that his saving purpose will be accomplished in them (John 6:37â€“39, 44, 64â€“66; 8:47; 10:26; 15:16; Acts 13:48; 16:14; Romans 9; 1 John 4:19; 5:1). God then in due course brings people to himself by calling them to faith in Christ (Rom. 8:30; 1 Cor. 1:9; 2 Tim. 1:9; 1 Pet. 2:9).
God's calling produces regeneration, which is the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit in which a spiritually dead person is made alive in Christ (Ezek. 11:19â€“20; Matt. 19:28; John 3:3, 5, 7; Titus 3:5). The revived heart repents and trusts Christ in saving faith as the only source of justification.
Notice that the editors clearly affirm that a regenerated, revived heart precedes repentance and trust in Christ. It goes on to describe saving faith as follows:
To be a Christian means one has traded in his â€œpolluted garmentâ€ of self-righteousness for the perfect righteousness of Christ (Phil. 3:8â€“9; cf. Isa. 64:6). He has ceased striving and now rests in the finished work of Christâ€”no longer depending on personal accomplishments, religious pedigree, or good works for God's approval, but only on what Christ has accomplished on his behalf (Phil. 2:8â€“9). A Christian understands with Paul that â€œit is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for meâ€ (Gal. 2:20). As regards Jesus paying the penalty for our sins, the Christian believes that when Jesus said, â€œit is finishedâ€ (John 19:30), it really was. Because of this, â€œthere is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesusâ€ (Rom. 8:1), and they have been â€œsaved to the uttermostâ€ (Heb. 7:25). A miraculous transformation has taken place in which the believer has â€œpassed from death to lifeâ€ (John 5:24). The Holy Spirit empowers the transformation from rebellious sinner to humble worshiper, leading to â€œconfidence for the day of judgmentâ€ (1 John 4:17).
Now moving away from the theological essays, we would like to point to some related commentary the ESVSB makes on a few important texts of Scripture which speak of regeneration:
ESVSB commentary on Eph 2:5
"even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christâ€” by grace you have been savedâ€”" (Eph 2:5)
Eph. 2:5 when we were dead. Paul resumes his original thought, which began with â€œyou were deadâ€ in v. 1. made us alive. That is, God gave us regeneration (new spiritual life within). This and the two verbs in v. 6 (â€œraised upâ€ and â€œseated withâ€) make up the main verbs of the long sentence in vv. 1â€“10. Since Christians were dead, they first had to be made alive before they could believe (and God did that together with Christ). This is why salvation is by grace alone (see notes on v. 8; vv. 9â€“10).
ESVSB commentary on 1 John 5:1
"Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him." (1 John 5:1)
1 John 5:1 Everyone who believes that. The word â€œthatâ€ underscores that saving faith has a particular content. It is not a vague religious commitment but a wholehearted trust in the saving work of Christ. Everyone who believes has been born of God. Regeneration precedes faith (cf. 2:29; 3:9; 4:7; note on Eph. 2:5).
ESVSB commentary on John 6:63
"It is the Spirit who gives life; a the flesh is no help at all."
John 6:63 The flesh (i.e., human nature including emotions, will, and intellect) is completely incapable of producing genuine spiritual life (see Rom. 7:14â€“25), for this can only be done by the Spirit. But the Holy Spirit works powerfully in and through the words that Jesus speaks, and those words are spirit and life in the sense that they work in the unseen spiritual realm and awaken genuine spiritual life.
I have also had people write to ask me what the esvsb has for notes on romans 9-11? and also, what is its attitude toward the dispensational covenanental conversation? And lastly what is its note on "the israel of God" in galations 6?
It may be of comfort to all of you that Thomas Schreiner was the author of the ESVSB notes for the Epistle to the Romans
Here are some the notes:
Rom. 9:11 God did not choose Jacob on the basis of anything in Jacob or Esau's life but to achieve the fulfillment of God's purpose of election. Christians can be assured, therefore, that God's promise will be fulfilled because it depends solely upon his will. The contrast between works and calling shows that salvation is in view, not merely the historical destiny of Israel as a nation. For the OT background on "election," see Gen. 18:10; Ex. 33:19; Mal. 1:2. See also Eph. 1:3â€“6
Rom. 9:13 The citation of Mal. 1:2â€“3 also shows that God set his saving love on Jacob and rejected (hated) Esau. "Hated" is startling, but as a sinner Esau did not deserve to be chosen by God, who remains just in not choosing everyone. The salvation of anyone at all comes only from God's mercy.
Rom. 9:14â€“15 Since God chose Jacob instead of Esau before they were born, without regard to how good or bad either of them would be, the question naturally arises: Is God just in choosing one over the other? God is just because no one deserves to be saved (cf. 3:23), and the salvation of anyone at all is due to God's mercy alone, as the citation of Ex. 33:19 affirms.
Rom. 9:16 Salvation, then, is not ultimately based on human free will or effort but depends entirely on God's merciful will.
Rom. 9:17 For this very purpose. Paul quotes Ex. 9:16 to show that God is sovereign over evil as well. Even the wrath of man praises God (Ps. 76:10), for God installed Pharaoh as ruler and hardened his heart so that his own saving power and glorious name would be spread throughout the whole world.
Rom. 9:19 who can resist his will? If salvation ultimately depends upon God, and he has mercy and hardens whomever he pleases, then how can he find anyone guilty? How can he charge anyone with guilt since his will is irresistible?
Rom. 9:20â€“21 Some of Paul's readers might expect him to appeal to human free will to resolve the problem posed in v. 19. Instead, he insists that finite human beings may not rebelliously question God's ways, that God as a potter (cf. Jer. 18:1â€“6) has the right to do what he wishes with his creation. The honorable and dishonorable vessels in this context represent those who are saved and unsaved. Paul affirms that humans are guilty for their sin, and he offers no philosophical resolution as to how this fits with divine sovereignty. He does insist that God ordains all that happens (cf. Eph. 1:11), even though God himself does not sin and is not morally responsible for sin.
Rom. 11:11 Israel's hardening is not the final word. God planned salvation history so that Israel's trespass would open salvation for the Gentiles, and the Jews in turn would be provoked to jealousy when they see Gentiles being saved and enjoying a relationship with God.
Rom. 11:12 The term world is another word for Gentiles here. Full inclusion looks forward to the fulfillment of God's saving promises to ethnic Israel. Paul argues from the lesser to the greater: if Israel's sin brought salvation to the Gentiles, then the blessing will be even greater when all Israel is saved (see v. 15).
Rom. 11:13â€“14 As an apostle, Paul had a special calling and commission to preach the good news to the Gentiles. But he uses his ministry to the Gentiles also to benefit the Jews, for he hopes that the more Gentiles come to salvation, the more this will provoke the Jews to jealousy, so that many will be saved.
Rom. 11:15 If the rejection of the majority of Israel has meant that many Gentiles (the world) are now reconciled to God through Christ, then the acceptance of the Jews (their future coming to Christ in large numbers) will bring about the final resurrection (life from the dead) and the end of history, so that from that point on people will praise God forever and ever (see v. 12). Others think "life from the dead" is a figurative expression for great spiritual revival.
Gal. 6:16 and upon. "And" (Gk. kai) can also mean "even," in which case Paul would be equating the church with "the Israel of God." Which sense is best here must be decided with reference to the larger context of Paul's thought both in Galatians and in his other epistles. Israel of God. That is, in contrast to the children of the "present Jerusalem" (4:25), the true people of God are the believing children of Abraham (3:7, 29), who belong to "Jerusalem above" (4:26â€“27).
As for dispensational/covenantal -- Both editors J.I. Packer and Wayne Grudem are covenantal (with the exception of covenant baptism for Grudem). C. John Collins from Covenant seminary (a decidedly covenantal seminary) writes the essay in the ESVSB entitled How the New Testament Quotes and Interprets the Old Testament.
However, I noticed that in the notes for Revelation 20 - although the notes were written by a covenant theologian: Dennis Johnson from Westminster Seminary (who himself wrote a covenantal, amillennial commentary on Revelation), the notes for the chapter simply list the various positions on the millennium and does not push a particular position. I will do some deeper investigation on the overall view but it appears to me that it promotes much more continuity between Old and New Testaments than most dispensationalists would allow.
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