One of the most important questions we can answer is whether or not the new birth is something that can be lost. If God has regenerated a person, can that person return permanently to a state of degeneracy?
Looking at Scripture as a whole, it is clear that those who are transformed by the Holy Spirit will continue in that state until the end of life. Many passages of the Bible teach this doctrine, one of the most important being Paul’s exhortation to the Philippians in today’s passage. In 1:6, the apostle clearly proclaims the permanency of regeneration. God will bring the good work He started in us to completion. The Lord never aborts the person that He has quickened.
This is comforting because we know that if it were up to us, none of us would be able to die in a state of grace. This does not mean that sanctification is passive or that we should sit back and let God do all of the work. Paul tells us in Philippians to work out our salvation in fear and trembling (2:12). Nevertheless, God undergirds all of our efforts to pursue maturity in Christ. His sovereign presence and saving power is what ultimately keeps us in the faith (v. 13).
The fact that regeneration is permanent does not mean that believers cannot fall into sin, even heinous ones. Simon Peter illustrates this truth well. Remember that he committed the worst sin of all, denying the Lord and Master who would redeem His soul (Matt. 26:69–75). But Peter did not remain in sin forever; he came to repent of his sin and found restoration in Christ Jesus (John 21:15–19). For this reason we must always turn to the Lord even if we have transgressed His will most grievously. He will restore us when we humbly confess our sin, and this confession is an outward evidence of repentance and the staying power of regeneration in our hearts (1 John 1:8–10).
Furthermore, we should also pray for those who seem to have fallen from the faith. We do not know their most inner thoughts, and they may be regenerate, though in sin. Therefore, we pray for their hearts to be softened that they might bear the fruit of the new birth once more.
Coram deo: Living before the face of God
The permanency of our regeneration is something we must not take for granted. Knowing that we have been born again should motivate us to live out this truth by heeding the many warnings in Scripture against unbelief (Heb. 6:1–12). If we do not heed these warnings and repent when necessary, we reveal that we are still slaves to sin and must question whether we have been born again in the first place (Rom. 6:1–2, 15–16). What sins do you need to repent over this day?