Regeneration is not a change of the old Adamic life, but the introduction of a new: it is the implantation of life of the Last Adam. And this is by the operation of the Holy Spirit, founded upon the accomplished redemption of Christ, and in full keeping with the sovereign will or counsel of the Father. The moment a sinner receives the Savior by faith, he becomes the possessor of a new life, a totally new creation—and the source of the life is the Lord Jesus (Col 3:4); he is born of God, and His child for all eternity.

Nor does the introduction of this new life alter, in the slightest degree, the true, essential character of the old. This rather continues what it is, and is made in no respect better; yes, rather, there is the full display of its evil character in opposition to the new creation. “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other” (Gal 5:17). There they are in all their distinctness.

I believe this doctrine of the two natures in the believer is not generally understood; and yet, so long as there is ignorance of it, the mind must be utterly at sea in reference to the true standing and privileges of the child of God. Some there are who think that regeneration is a certain change which the old Adamic life undergoes; and, moreover, that this change is gradual in its operation, until, at length, the whole man becomes transformed.

That this idea is unsound can be proved by various quotations from the New Testament. For example, “The canal mind is enmity against God” (Rom 8:7). How can that which is thus spoken of ever undergo any improvement? The apostle goes on to say, “It is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” If it cannot be subject to the law of God, how can it be improved, how can it undergo any change? Again, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh.” Do what you will with the flesh, and it is flesh all the while.

And Paul does not say, “Ye have improved, or are seeking to improve, ‘the old man,’” but rather, “Ye have put off the old man”* (Col 3:9). Passages might easily be multiplied to prove the unsoundness of the theory with respect to the gradual improvement of the old man—to prove that the old man is dead in sins*, and utterly unrenewable; and, moreover, that the only thing we can do with it is to keep it under our feet by reckoning upon the death and new life that we have in union with our risen Head in the heavens.

If present or future blessedness were made to depend upon even a divine change wrought in our nature, flesh would glory. Though my nature were improved, it would be something of me, and thus God would not have all the glory. But when I am introduced into a new creation, I find it is all of God—designed, matured; developed by the Father Himself—He is the Giver, and I am the receiver.

This is what makes Christianity what it is; and, moreover, distinguishes it from every system of human religion under the sun, whether it be Romanism, or Protestantism, or any other ism whatsoever. Human religion gives the creature a place, more of less; it keeps the bondwoman and her son in the house (Gen 21:10-12); it gives man something whereof to glory in. On the contrary, Christianity excludes the creature from all interference in the work of salvation—casts out the bondwomen and her son, and gives all the glory to Him in Whom alone it is due.

- C H Mackintosh

Poster’s Comment:
*”put off the old man”: not taken off or removed, but avoiding it by progressively not walking in its desires, according to as the Spirit teaches us, that we not only live in Him—but are ever learning to “walk” in Him (Gal 5:25).

*”old man is dead in sins”: Dead in the right to incur guilt, and in the ability to engender dominion. As one becomes born again this old nature is rather enhanced to the believer’s awareness to see more clearly of what it is, which results in seeing more clearly of God’s holiness; “that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful” (Rom 7:13).