As we saw in the last News, Psalm 87 states three times that regeneration or the new birth takes place in Zion, the city of God, the church (4, 5, 6). This implies at least two callings. First, invite unbelievers to come to hear God’s Word preached, for this is where He regenerates and saves sinners! Second, Christian parents must not only teach their young children in the home, but also bring them to the assembly of the saints and the catechism classes. Regeneration is, indeed, a sovereign work of God, for the Spirit, like the wind, blows on whom He wills (John 3:8), but the Holy Scriptures also declare that this spiritual birth is in the church.
Regeneration is not only in the church; it is also a benefit for the elect in the nations. Psalm 87:4 mentions five Gentile peoples: Rahab or Egypt (Isa. 51:9-10) and Ethiopia are south of Israel, Babylon is east, Philistia is west and Tyre is north. God regenerates His elect people from all nations—north, south, east and west—in the church.
Of the five places spoken of in Psalm 87:4, Philistia is nearest to Israel, then Tyre, Egypt (Rahab) and Babylon, with Ethiopia farthest away. In the New Testament age, God has granted the spiritual birth to His chosen people in the four corners of the earth.
We should also consider the history of these five nations or peoples. Rahab or Egypt was the place of Israel’s bondage. The Jews also experienced captivity in Babylon. The Philistines were a long-standing enemy of Israel, especially in the books of Judges, I & II Samuel, and I Kings. Tyre and Ethiopia were not as closely involved with God’s Old Testament people. Now, in the New Testament age, the elect from these ungodly nations and many others are brought into Christ’s church by regeneration.
One could also consider their national characteristics. Rahab/Egypt was fierce and proud. Babylon bespeaks the world and its allurements. The Philistines were a bitter enemy, a thorn in Israel’s flesh. Tyre was rich, filled with traders. Ethiopia, farthest from Israel, was totally ignorant of God. For the last 2,000 years, all types of men and women, with characteristics such as these, have received the blessing of the new birth: the proud, the worldly, the wealthy, the ignorant, enemies of the church, businessmen, etc.
People from the five places of Psalm 87:4 were present on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 when Christ poured out His Holy Spirit thus forming the New Testament church. The eunuch in Acts 8 was from Ethiopia. Paul spent seven days with the disciples in Tyre (Acts 21:3-7) for God by regeneration had created a church there.
Thus evangelism takes place by, and only by, the church, and the regeneration of the elect takes place in connection with, and only in connection with, the church, for the nations are born in Zion.
God declares that regeneration in the church is an aspect of the church’s glory. He says this about no other institution in the world and certainly not about the false church. Indeed, regeneration in the church is the most prominent aspect of the church’s glory in Psalm 87 for it is the most frequently mentioned (4, 5, 6). The Psalmist resolves to speak of it: "I will make mention of" the spiritual birth of the Gentiles in the church (4). Other people talk of it: "And of Zion it shall be said, This and that man was born in her" (5). Indeed, it is through regeneration—and no other way—that God "establishes" His catholic or universal church in the world as the visible body of Jesus Christ (5).
Jehovah even registers His regenerate saints: "The Lord shall count, when he writeth up the people, that this man was born there" (6). The Lamb’s book of life (Rev. 13:8; 17:8) is a biblical reference to God’s eternal election of us in Christ, and the enrolling or registering of our regeneration is in time, but the same people (eventually) are mentioned in both books. All God’s people were written in the Lamb’s book of life simultaneously in eternity but all of the elect are regenerated at different times and therefore are written in the registry or roll book of those born in Zion at different times (Ps. 87:6).
We do not always know who are regenerate. Some whom we may think are regenerated are not. Some whom we think are not regenerated actually are. We view and treat others as Christians if they make a credible profession of faith. Do they believe the biblical gospel? Do they live according to the Word of God? On this basis, people are enrolled into particular instituted churches. Some in the membership lists of true churches are not really born again; they are hypocrites. But God infallibly knows and keeps a careful record of those whom He has regenerated (6).
The Psalmist concludes his song about Zion: "All my springs are in thee" (7). These are the springs of the spiritual water of life, bringing refreshment and joy to the believer. The Lord Jesus is the fountain or spring of "living water" (John 4:10, 14) in the church. By the means of grace, the crucified and risen Christ communicates to us Himself and all His blessings. We are refreshed by His Word and sacraments, as we believe His promises and enjoy the communion of the saints.
Notice that the believer declares "all my springs" are in the church (Ps. 87:7). This is what we read in God’s Word; this is what we sing in this inspired Psalm; this is what each of us must confess: "All my springs are in thee" (7)! This is why we are members in, and do not leave, a true church, unless to join a more faithful church.
Do you see the argument in Psalm 87? The glory of the church (3) includes her "foundation" (1), her election in Christ. According to verse 2, God’s love makes the church glorious. The church is also glorious because it is the place of the new birth (4-6) and the source, foundation and spring of all our spiritual life (7). No wonder that the musicians and the singers sang this inspired Psalm about it (7)!
- Volume: 13
- Issue: 11
Rev. Angust Stewart (Wife: Mary)
Ordained - 2001
Pastorates: Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Ballymena, Northern Ireland - 2001Website: www.cprf.co.uk/
Address7 Lislunnan Road
State or ProvinceCo.Antrim
Zip CodeBT42 3NR
Telephone(01144) 28 25 891851