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Regeneration before Faith?

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  • Regeneration before Faith?

    Ezekiel 11:19-20 19 And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, 20 that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.
    Notice that God placing a new heart within precedes following, obeying and the consummation of the covenant promise. No one believes while they have a heart of stone. That would be absurd. The heart must be softened to flesh prior to a desire for Christ. no?

    Jesus likewise teaches this same idea of monergistic regeneration in the gospel of John chapter 6:

    It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64But there are some of you who do not believe." (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father." (vs. 6:63-65)

    All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. (vs.37)
    Notice several things in these passages.The Bible declares there are only two states of being: flesh and Spirit, and that it is only those who are born of the Spirit (Jn. 3:3, 6:63) who will come to Jesus (Jn. 6:65). The native resources of the flesh are, therefore, morally impotent to meet God's humbling requirement to believe the gospel. (1:13) But impartation of the Spirit causally precedes our action and imputation.

    Also notice two universals in this passage. A universal negative "no one" and a universal positive "all".

    Put these together and what to they say: no one can believe in Jesus unless God grants it through the quickening work of the Spirit, and all to whom God grants it will believe. The granting precedes the believing and it is effectual. In other words all those whom God grants will infallibly come to Jesus and He will indeed raise all of them up at the last day. None will be lost.

    So regeneration causally precedes faith/justification. Both are benefits granted to us in Christ. Without the Holy Spirit there would be no new birth, no illumination, no understanding or affection for the gospel, and thus no faith -- in other words, no Christians. So there is no synergism here because the man is granted the new birth so that he might believe and be justified. These all occur simultaneously ... one simply causes the other from the outside. The Spirit works faith in us. No one says 'Jesus is Lord' apart from the Holy Spirit. (1 Cor. 12:3).

  • #2
    Also Ephesians 2:5:

    5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—
    Here Paul locates the time when regeneration occurs. It takes place 'when we were dead.' Dead men do not cooperate with grace. Unless regeneration takes place first, there is no possibility of faith.
    Comment>

    • #3
      This was an interesting that you can only be spirit or flesh. I was taught growing up that we have both but that our flesh is temporary. I knew that you couldn't believe in Jesus without God but I've never read something that so concisely explains it. Thank you for writing it and referencing directly to the scriptures, it makes me want to go read them right now.
      Comment>

      • #4
        I'd have to disagree with you.

        John 1:12b "to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—".
        When were they given the right to become children of God? Was it before they believed or after? What does it say?
        Gal 3:2 "I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?"
        Did these people receive the Spirit before believing or after? What does it imply? And how would a Calvinist answer Paul's question if he had been one of the Galatians? Would he have said, "Neither! I received the Spirit before I believed. I didn't receive it by observing the law nor by believing!"
        Ac 2:38 "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
        When did they receive the Holy Spirit? Before they believed or after? What does it imply? In fact did they receive the Spirit before they were justified or after?
        Ga 3:26 "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus,"
        So how could a person be born of God before believing? A person is born of God through faith - just as John 1:12 indicated.
        Ephesians 1:13
        And you also were included in Christ when you heard
        the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were
        marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit,
        When did they receive the Holy Spirit? Was it after they believed or before? What does it say?
        Comment>

        • #5
          Originally posted by William View Post
          Also Ephesians 2:5:

          Here Paul locates the time when regeneration occurs. It takes place 'when we were dead.' Dead men do not cooperate with grace. Unless regeneration takes place first, there is no possibility of faith.
          However Paul elaborates on this saying," by grace you have been saved through faith" Eph 2:8 And "saved" refers to being made alive, "even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)," So therefore faith must logically precede being made alive, and thus faith precede regeneration, as also John 1:12 affirms.

          As for the theory that dead men can't do anything, then neither can they sin. "Dead" is referring to one's relationship with God and not to one's inability to believe the gospel.

          Comment>

          • #6
            Originally posted by bcbsr View Post
            I'd have to disagree with you.

            John 1:12b "to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—".
            When were they given the right to become children of God? Was it before they believed or after? What does it say?
            Gal 3:2 "I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?"
            Did these people receive the Spirit before believing or after? What does it imply? And how would a Calvinist answer Paul's question if he had been one of the Galatians? Would he have said, "Neither! I received the Spirit before I believed. I didn't receive it by observing the law nor by believing!"
            Ac 2:38 "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
            When did they receive the Holy Spirit? Before they believed or after? What does it imply? In fact did they receive the Spirit before they were justified or after?
            Ga 3:26 "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus,"
            So how could a person be born of God before believing? A person is born of God through faith - just as John 1:12 indicated.
            Ephesians 1:13
            And you also were included in Christ when you heard
            the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were
            marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit,
            When did they receive the Holy Spirit? Was it after they believed or before? What does it say?
            Hello Bcbsr, and welcome to the forum!

            I take it you would disagree with ordos salutis of Reformed theology? You are aware of not only the order but what the term "salvation" encompasses? Before we get too far ahead I ask that you read this to make sure we both mean the same thing when using a theological term such as regeneration: What does "Rebirth", "Born Again", "Born from Above" or "Regeneration" Mean?

            “And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified” (v. 30).- Romans 8:29-30. The ordo salutis is the order of salvation. This focuses on the acts of God and the response of the individual in salvation. God calls us, produces regeneration in us, so that we respond with repentance, faith, and obedience. Behind the divine call is God’s electing decree. The ordo salutis is not concerned with a temporal sequence of events, but with a logical order.

            1) election/predestination (in Christ)
            2) Atonement
            3) gospel call
            4) inward call
            5) regeneration
            6) conversion (faith & repentance)
            7) justification
            8) sanctification
            9) glorification. (Rom 8:29-30)

            I bring this up because you asked the question as to how a Calvinist would answer Paul's question, "Gal 3:2 "I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?" The Reformed position has faith as an effect of election rather than a cause of it. Thus, there is a sense in which a person is saved in order to have faith. I see nothing contradicting the Calvinist view in Galatians 3:2, but in order that you have a better understanding I am sharing Calvin's commentary as well as Matthew Henry's.

            Here's John Calvin on Galataisn 3:2 since you are interested in a Calvinistic interpretation:

            Galatians 3:2

            2.This one I wish to learn from you. He now proceeds to support his cause by additional arguments. The first is drawn from their experience, for he reminds them in what manner the gospel was introduced among themselves. When they heard the gospel, they received the Spirit. It was not to the law, therefore, but to faith, that they owed the reception of this benefit. This same argument is employed by Peter in the defense which he makes to his brethren for having baptized uncircumcised persons. (Act 10:47.) Paul and Barnabas followed the same course in the debate which they maintained at Jerusalem on this subject. (Act 15:2.) There was therefore manifest ingratitude in not submitting to the doctrine, by means of which they had received the Holy Spirit. The opportunity which he gives them to reply is expressive not of doubt, but of greater confidence: for their convictions, founded on their own experience, forced them to acknowledge that it was true.

            Faith is here put, by a figure of speech, for the gospel, which is elsewhere called “the law of faith,” (Rom 3:27,) because it exhibits to us the free grace of God in Christ, without any merit of works. The Spirit means here, I think, the grace of regeneration, which is common to all believers; though I have no objection to understand it as referring to the peculiar gifts by which the Lord, at that period, honored the preaching of the gospel. (57)

            It may be objected, that the Spirit was not, in this respect, given to all. But, it was enough for Paul’s purpose, that the Galatians knew that the power of the Holy Spirit in his Church had accompanied Paul’s doctrine, and that believers were variously endowed with the gifts of the Spirit for general edification. It may likewise be objected, that those gifts were not infallible signs of adoption, and so do not apply to the present question. I reply, that it was enough that the Lord had confirmed the doctrine of Paul by the visible gifts of his Spirit. A still simpler view of the case is, that they had been distinguished by the ordinary privilege of adoption, before those impostors had brought forward their additions. “In whom,” says he to the Ephesians, “ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise.” (Eph 1:13.)

            (57) “Did ye receive that Spirit which was the fullest evidence of your being justified, accepted, and received as the children and people of God, by conformity to the law of Moses, or by embracing the doctrine of the gospel? If by embracing the doctrine of the gospel, then you became justified by embracing that doctrine, and consequently need not conform to the law of Moses, in order to obtain justification.” — Chandler.
            And here's Matthew Henry:

            Galatians 3:1-5

            The apostle is here dealing with those who, having embraced the faith of Christ, still continued to seek for justification by the works of the law; that is, who depended upon their own obedience to the moral precepts as their righteousness before God, and, wherein that was defective, had recourse to the legal sacrifices and purifications to make it up. These he first sharply reproves, and then endeavours, by the evidence of truth, to convince them. This is the right method, when we reprove any for a fault or an error, to convince them that it is an error, that it is a fault.

            He reproves them, and the reproof is very close and warm: he calls them foolish Galatians, Gal_3:1. Though as Christians they were Wisdom's children, yet as corrupt Christians they were foolish children. Yea, he asks, Who hath bewitched you? whereby he represents them as enchanted by the arts and snares of their seducing teachers, and so far deluded as to act very unlike themselves. That wherein their folly and infatuation appeared was that they did not obey the truth; that is, they did not adhere to the gospel way of justification, wherein they had been taught, and which they had professed to embrace. Note, It is not enough to know the truth, and to say we believe it, but we must obey it too; we must heartily submit to it, and stedfastly abide by it. Note, also, Those are spiritually bewitched who, when the truth as it is in Jesus is plainly set before them, will not thus obey it. Several things proved and aggravated the folly of these Christians.

            1. Jesus Christ had been evidently set forth as crucified among them; that is, they had had the doctrine of the cross preached to them, and the sacrament of the Lord's supper administered among them, in both which Christ crucified had been set before them. Now, it was the greatest madness that could be for those who had acquaintance with such sacred mysteries, and admittance to such great solemnities, not to obey the truth which was thus published to them, and signed and sealed in that ordinance. Note, The consideration of the honours and privileges we have been admitted to as Christians should shame us out of the folly of apostasy and backsliding.

            2. He appeals to the experiences they had had of the working of the Spirit upon their souls (Gal 3:2); he puts them in mind that, upon their becoming Christians, they had received the Spirit, that many of them at least had been made partakers not only of the sanctifying influences, but of the miraculous gifts, of the Holy Spirit, which were eminent proofs of the truth of the Christian religion and the several doctrines of it, and especially of this, that justification is by Christ only, and not by the works of the law, which was one of the peculiar and fundamental principles of it. To convince them of the folly of their departing from this doctrine, he desires to know how they came by these gifts and graces: Was it by the works of the law, that is, the preaching of the necessity of these in order to justification? This they could not say, for that doctrine had not then been preached to them, nor had they, as Gentiles, any pretence to justification in that way. Or was it by the hearing of faith, that is, the preaching of the doctrine of faith in Christ as the only way of justification? This, if they would say the truth, they were obliged to own, and therefore must be very unreasonable if they should reject a doctrine of the good effects of which they had had such experience. Note, (1.) It is usually by the ministry of the gospel that the Spirit is communicated to persons. And, (2.) Those are very unwise who suffer themselves to be turned away from the ministry and doctrine which have been blessed to their spiritual advantage.

            3. He calls upon them to consider their past and present conduct, and thence to judge whether they were not acting very weakly and unreasonably (Gal 3:3, Gal 3:4): he tells them that they had begun in the Spirit, but now were seeking to be made perfect by the flesh; they had embraced the doctrine of the gospel, by means of which they had received the Spirit, and wherein only the true way of justification is revealed. And thus they had begun well; but now they were turning to the law, and expected to be advanced to higher degrees of perfection by adding the observance of it to faith in Christ, in order to their justification, which could end in nothing but their shame and disappointment: for this, instead of being an improvement upon the gospel, was really a perversion of it; and, while they sought to be justified in this way, they were so far from being more perfect Christians that they were more in danger of becoming no Christians at all; hereby they were pulling down with one hand what they had built with the other, and undoing what they had hitherto done in Christianity. Yea, he further puts them in mind that they had not only embraced the Christian doctrine, but suffered for it too; and therefore their folly would be the more aggravated, if now they should desert it: for in this case all that they had suffered would be in vain - it would appear that they had been foolish in suffering for what they now deserted, and their sufferings would be altogether in vain, and of no advantage to them. Note, (1.) It is the folly of apostates that they lose the benefit of all they have done in religion, or suffered for it. And, (2.) It is very sad for any to live in an age of services and sufferings, of sabbaths, sermons, and sacraments, in vain; in this case former righteousness shall not be mentioned.

            4. He puts them in mind that they had had ministers among them (and particularly himself) who came with a divine seal and commission; for they had ministered the Spirit to them, and wrought miracles among them: and he appeals to them whether they did it by the works of the law or by the hearing of faith, whether the doctrine that was preached by them, and confirmed by the miraculous gifts and operations of the Spirit, was that of justification by the works of the law or by the faith of Christ; they very well knew that it was not the former, but the latter; and therefore must needs be inexcusable in forsaking a doctrine which had been so signally owned and attested, and exchanging it for one that had received no such attestations.
            God bless,
            William
            Comment>

            • #7
              You say, "The ordo salutis is not concerned with a temporal sequence of events, but with a logical order."

              We are talking temporal. Or are you willing to concede that faith precedes regeneration in a temporal sense? If "logical order" is not temporal order concerning this subject, then what do you mean by saying that regeneration precedes faith. It precedes it in some sort of sense of a "logical order", but not in a temporal order?

              As for Calvin on Gal 3:2 which says, "Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?" (NIV), Calvin says, "they received the Spirit. It was not to the law, therefore, but to faith, that they owed the reception of this benefit". And he also says, "The Spirit means here, I think, the grace of regeneration, which is common to all believers" So if we substitute "regeneration" and "receive the Spirit" in the first quote, since that's how he views it, we have Calvin saying in effect "They owe the grace of regeneration to faith."

              Thus it would seem, contrary to Calvinism, Calvin is saying that faith precedes regeneration.

              HOWEVER, to be noted Calvinism is saved from this conclusion when Calvin makes the absurd claim that "Faith is here put, by a figure of speech, for the gospel". So the hypothesis he's making is not that believing precedes regeneration, but rather the presentation of the gospel precedes regeneration.

              It's a bit absurd to claim that "by believing what you heard" doesn't mean believing what you heard, but simply being presented with the gospel. And he himself says, "grace of regeneration, which is common to all believers", whereas Calvinism claims that regeneration is not a function of one's faith - one's "believing."

              As for the quote you cut and pasted from Matthew Henry's commentary of Gal 3:1-5 speaks nothing of regeneration. It speaks nothing of the order of faith and regeneration. So it's kind of irrelevant here, don't you think?

              I remind you that you have yet to deal with the other verses I mentioned on the subject.

              And speaking on the subject of irrelvant quotes, note also that you references to Ezekiel both here and on your thread "What does "Rebirth", "Born Again", "Born from Above" or "Regeneration" Mean?" mentions nothing of faith. So you can't really use Ezekiel as a proof text that regeneration precedes faith. You have to use verses that speak of regeneration and faith, and speak to their order.

              Now I also note that you say, "a person is saved in order to have faith.", which is to say that a person's salvation is not conditioned upon faith. WOW! I can name countless verses which contradict that hypothesis!

              Take for example the verses perhaps most commonly used in presenting the gospel

              John 3:16-18 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son." Which states that salvation is contingent upon faith.

              Or more succinctly what of Acts 16:30,31 He then brought them out and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved— you and your household."

              Do you preach a different gospel?

              It says, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith" Eph 2:8, but you say that it is not through faith that one is saved. Is that right?


              Comment>

              • #8


                Originally posted by bcbsr View Post
                It's a bit absurd to claim that "by believing what you heard" doesn't mean believing what you heard, but simply being presented with the gospel. And he himself says, "grace of regeneration, which is common to all believers", whereas Calvinism claims that regeneration is not a function of one's faith - one's "believing."
                It is a bit absurd to expect anyone to see let alone enter or for that matter draw close to the object of our faith, which is impossible without regeneration. I think if you were familiar with Calvin's writings and commentary you would know that he addresses other "interpretation". As you're suggesting Henry does not even exegete regeneration from the verse.

                Ephesians 2:5 states when Regeneration occurs, but I must admit your response is rather comical. Then you point to Ephesians 2:8 which does not address the timing of regeneration, but Ephesians 2:5 is conveniently discarded. The gift of God and faith stand with one another in Ephesians 2:8. The two are contrary to being saved by ourselves or by our works. Therefore, one can infer from Ephesians 2:8 with Ephesians 2:5 that God does not conjoin two natures contrary to one another without regeneration. And lets not leave out the following verses, namely in Ephesians 2:10 Paul completely takes away from our works the praise of justification, seeing that the good works themselves are the effects of grace in us.

                The principal ordering feature of the ordo is not temporal sequence because, if you were familiar with it you would know that faith and repentance, and faith and justification, are evidently simultaneous, as are the triad justification, adoption, and sanctification. But if you wish to attempt to prove me wrong then one can generalize a temporal order because some things such as calling precede glorification.

                Back on the topic of Galatians 3:2, isn't it evident that Paul appeals to the Galatians own experience of the Holy Spirit to prove that one's keeping of the law is not necessary for his justification or for becoming a Christian?

                And yes, I see that you added verses to the discussion which I have not bothered to address after reading you commentary, much the same way you have not even acknowledged my welcome or greetings. Evidently, I preach a different gospel than you do, and I choose with whom I enter in dialogue with on this board.
                Comment>

                • #9
                  Originally posted by bcbsr View Post
                  I'd have to disagree with you.
                  John 1:12b "to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—".
                  When were they given the right to become children of God? Was it before they believed or after? What does it say?
                  I like to nibble to avoid choking, so I apologize for addressing only one verse from yout post.

                  Looking at John 1:12 in context of at least the whole paragraph:
                  10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
                  All of the verbs are past tense because all of the action described in the paragraph happened in the past. Within the context of the unfolding narrative that John is laying out for the reader, his critical "DO NOT MISS" point is that it really happened already. The Light (Son of God) had already come and those who should have welcomed him (the Jewish Nation) had already rejected him, and "those who did recieve him" (when others rejected him) had been given the right to become children of God. It makes no claim whether any particular event happened a moment ago or before the foundation of the world. The contrast is between the opening paragraph of John 1 describing eternity past, the recent past events of Jesus Incarnation and Earthly ministry and his coming call for the present reader "so what are you going to do about it?"

                  I do not see this verse making a case for the order of "believing" and "becoming children of God" one way or another. It simply acknowledges that some had already rejected and some had already believed by the time John wrote that Gospel.

                  Welcome, and God Bless.
                  Arthur



                  Comment>

                  • #10
                    Originally posted by atpollard View Post

                    I like to nibble to avoid choking, so I apologize for addressing only one verse from yout post.

                    Looking at John 1:12 in context of at least the whole paragraph:
                    10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
                    All of the verbs are past tense because all of the action described in the paragraph happened in the past. Within the context of the unfolding narrative that John is laying out for the reader, his critical "DO NOT MISS" point is that it really happened already. The Light (Son of God) had already come and those who should have welcomed him (the Jewish Nation) had already rejected him, and "those who did recieve him" (when others rejected him) had been given the right to become children of God. It makes no claim whether any particular event happened a moment ago or before the foundation of the world. The contrast is between the opening paragraph of John 1 describing eternity past, the recent past events of Jesus Incarnation and Earthly ministry and his coming call for the present reader "so what are you going to do about it?"

                    I do not see this verse making a case for the order of "believing" and "becoming children of God" one way or another. It simply acknowledges that some had already rejected and some had already believed by the time John wrote that Gospel.

                    Welcome, and God Bless.
                    Arthur
                    G'day Arthur,

                    Hope you don't mind me adding that verse John 1:13 specifies that children of God are those who are "born... of God" and our human will (the will of man") does not bring about this kind of birth. James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:3; John 3:3-8 makes it evident that we are passive in regeneration. We did not choose to be made physically alive and we did not choose to be born.

                    God bless,
                    William
                    Comment>

                    • #11
                      I agree that regeneration is monergistic as John 1:13 indicates, but it is preceded by faith as John 1:12 indicates, "to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name" So the person is not even given the right to become a child of God until they believe.
                      Comment>

                      • #12
                        Originally posted by bcbsr View Post
                        So the person is not even given the right to become a child of God until they believe.
                        I might actually agree with that, but we are going to need to figure out what it means to be a child of God.

                        Since I am here, there is an above average chance that I am saved.
                        If I am saved, then I was chosen by God before the foundation of the world.
                        So when I was a gang member, drug smuggler, weapon wielding angry young nihilistic athiest, was I a "son of God"?

                        Or did my sonship have to wait upon the grace of God to be manifest in the new heart?
                        Comment>
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