The Word the Instrument of Regeneration
James 1:18
Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

Of His own will; by His mere molten, induced by no cause but the goodness in His own breast.

1. To distinguish it from the generation of the Son, which is natural, this voluntary.

2. Not by a necessity of nature, but by an arbitrariness of grace.

3. Not by any obligation from the creature; the will of God is opposed to the merit of man. "Begat us," or brought us forth; for the same word (ver. 15) is translated "brings forth." "By the Word of truth," a title given to the gospel both in the Old and New Testament.And it is called truth by way of excellency, as paramount to all other truth.

1. Either, by an Hebraism, the word of truth; that is, the true word.

2. Or rather, by way of eminency, as containing a higher truth, more excellent in itself, more advantageous for the creature, than any other Divine truth; wherein the highest glory of God, the sure and everlasting happiness of the creature, is set forth; a word which He hath "magnified above all His name" (Psalm 138:2).And called the Word of truth.

1. In regard of the Author, truth itself; and the Publisher, He who was "the Way, the Truth, and the Life."

2. In opposition to all false doctrines, which can never be the instruments of conversion; for error to convert to truth is the same thing as for darkness to diffuse light, or water to kindle fire.

3. In opposition to the windy and fleshy conceits of men, which can no more be instrumental in the begetting a Christian than mere wind can beget a man.

4. In opposition to the legal shadows, the gospel declares the truth of these types. The law was the word of truth, but referred to the gospel as the great end of it. This contains the whole and ultimate purpose of God, for saving men by Jesus Christ, and in Him enriching them with all spiritual blessings, and not by the works of the law; and thus the Spirit, which enlightens and seals instruction upon our souls, is called "the Spirit of truth" 1 John 14:17.


1. It is not the law that is this instrument. It is true, the law considered in itself is preparatory to cast men down; but the law without the gospel never brought any man to Christ.

2. The gospel is this instrument. It is an instrument to strike off the fetters, and draw out the soul to a glorious liberty.

(1) It is not a natural instrument, to work by any natural efficacy, as food doth nourish, the sun shines, or the air and water cools, or as a sharp knife cuts if it be applied to fit matter. If it were thus natural, it would not be of grace.

(2) It is the only instrument appointed by God to this end in an ordinary way.

(3) It is, therefore, a necessary instrument. In regard of the reasonable creature there must be some declaration. God doth not ordinarily work but by means, and doth not produce anything without them which may be done with them. It is necessary the revelation of this gospel we have should be made. No man can see that which is not visible, or hear that which has no sound, or know that which is not declared. This necessity will further appear, if we consider that it always was so. Adam and Eve were the first after the Fall wherein God did constitute His Church, whose regeneration and conversion were wrought by that promise of the seed of the woman made to them in Paradise (Genesis 3:21). It seems to be the standing instrument of it to the end of the world (Psalm 68:18, compared with Ephesians 4:8, 9). It is necessary, by God's appointment, for all the degrees of the new birth, and all the appendixes to it. As God created the world by the Word of His power, and by the Word of His providence bid the creatures increase and multiply, so by the Word of the gospel He lays the foundation, and rears the building of His spiritual house. As it is not a natural instrument, but the only instrument appointed by God, and therefore, upon these and other accounts, a necessary instrument, so it is an instrument which makes mightily for God's glory. The meaner the appearance of the instrument, the more evident the power and skill of the workman. Consider, as it is an instrument, so but an instrument. God begets by the Word; the chief operation depends upon the Spirit of God. No sword can cut without a hand to manage it; no engine batter without a force to drive it.


1. Objectively, as it is a declaration of God's will, as it doth propose to the understanding what it is to be known, in order to salvation. The Spirit gave us an eye to see, and the Word is the light which discovers the object to the eye. The two chief parts of the Word are —

(1) The discovery of our misery by nature.

(2) A second discovery is of the necessity and existence of another bottom. It discovers our misery by nature, and our remedy by Christ.

2. The Word seems to have an active force upon the will, though the manner of it be very hard to conceive. It is operative in the hand of God for sanctification.


1. How admirable, then, is the power of the gospel! It is a quickening Word, not a dead; a powerful Word, not a weak (Hebrews 4:12).

(1) It is above the power of all moral philosophy. How excellent is that gospel which hath done that for the renewing of millions of souls, which all the wit and wisdom of the choicest philosophers could never effect upon one heart!

(2) Above the power of the law. The natural law makes us serve God by reason, the Mosaical by fear, and the gospel by love.

(3) Its power appears in the subjects it hath been instrumental to change. Souls bemired in the filthiest lusts have been made miraculously clean; it hath changed the hands of rapine into instruments of charity, hearts full of filth into vessels of purity; it hath brought down proud reason to the obedience of faith, and made active lusts to die at the foot of the Cross.

(4) The power of it is seen in the suddenness of its operation. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, like the change at the last resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:51, 52).

(5) And this hath been done many times by one part, one particle of the Word. One word of the gospel, a single sentence, hath erected a heavenly trophy in a soul, which all the volumes of the choicest mere reason could never erect; one plain Scripture hath turned a face to heaven that never looked that way before, and made a man fix his eye there against his carnal interest.

(6) And this power appears in the simplicity of it. The gospel is, then, certainly of Divine authority. It shows us the reason why the gospel is so much opposed by Satan in the world. It begets those for heaven whom he had begotten for bell. We see, then, how injurious they are to God, who would obstruct the progress of the gospel in the world, that would hinder the reading and the preaching of the Word. It informs us that the gospel shall then endure in the world, as long as God hath any to beget. Men may puff at it, but they cannot extinguish it; it is a Word of truth, and truth is mighty, and will prevail. It is a sign, then, God hath some to beget, when He brings His gospel to any place. He hath a pleasure to accomplish, and it shall not return unto Him void. It informs us what an excellent thing is new birth! The end is more desirable than the means; this is the chief end of all the ordinances of God in the world. What a lamentable thing is it that so few should be now begotten by the Word of truth! Hereby you may examine whether you are new begotten. It instructs ministers how to preach. The opening the Word is the life of it, and the true means of regeneration. Highly glorify God for the Word of truth, which is so great an instrument. How thankful should we be for an invention, to secure our estates from consuming, houses from burning, bodies from dying! The gospel, the Word of truth, doth much more than this. Bless God in your hearts —

1. That ever you had the Word of truth made known to you.

2. Much more that it has been successful to any of you. Glorify God in your lives. As you feel the power of it in your hearts, let others see the brightness and efficacy of it in your actions. Prize the Word of truth, which works such great effects in the soul. Value that as long as you live, which is the cord whereby God hath drawn any of you out of the dungeon of death. Pray and endeavour for the preservation and success of the Word of truth. Were there a medicine that could preserve life, how chary should we be in preserving that? The gospel is the tree whose leaves cure the nations (Revelation 22:2). Wait upon God in the Word. Where there is a revelation on God's part, there must be a hearing on ours. Sit down, therefore, at the feet of God, and receive of His words (Deuteronomy 33:3).

(S. Charnock, B. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

WEB: Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

The Second Birth
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