If Regeneration Precedes Faith - Ephesians 1:13

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  • If Regeneration Precedes Faith - Ephesians 1:13

    by John Hendryx

    Visitor: If regeneration precedes faith, how can we explain Ephesians 1:13? This verse lists hearing, believing and sealing with the Holy Spirit in that order. If being sealed with the Holy Spirit is the same thing as being indwelled by the Holy Spirit, or if this happens when the heart is changed (ie., with regeneration, as per Ezekiel 36:26-27), doesn't that mean that regeneration follows belief rather than precedes it?

    Response: Hi and thank you for your question. Are you suggesting that because the Spirit comes to indwell the believer AFTER he believes and is justified, that the Spirit does no work whatsoever in people prior to and during his conversion? That the Spirit is dormant and is waiting for a natural, graceless person to take the first step to believe, before He will do anything? Consider that If we as regenerate believers need the Spirit daily to believe, obey and persevere in the faith, how much more does the unbeliever need Him to understand and believe the things of the Spirit (1 Cor 2:12,14). The Biblical evidence is so overwhelming that the Spirit also works prior to belief (1 Thess 1:4,5) that this should not even be a debate in the church. The sinner hears and comes to Christ only because the Holy Spirit opens his ears, eyes and understanding to the gospel (Deut 29:4, 30:6; John 6:63-65). As in creation, the Spirit broods over us, so to speak, before He gives the birth to us. It is important that we do not limit the Spirit's work but understand that He has a full array of ministries:

    In fact, there are seven major distinct ministries of the Holy Spirit:

    Convicts unbelievers of sin, righteousness and judgment: John 16:8-11.
    Calls and Regenerates (causing us to believe): 1 Cor 1:24; John 1:13, 3:1-8, 6:63-65; Titus 3:5, I Peter 1:23-25; James 1:18.
    Indwells and baptizes the believer: I Corinthians 6:19; Romans 8:9; John 14:16; I Corinthians 12:13.
    Seals us: Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:30.
    Imparts gifts: I Corinthians 12:7-11.
    Fills the believer: Ephesians 5:15-21; Galatians 5:16.
    Causes us to bear fruit: Galatians 5:22-23.— conforming us to the character of Jesus Christ.

    I would encourage you to also consider that you thank God for your conversion because you know your repenting and believing cannot be ascribed to your own wisdom, sound judgment, or good sense (even partly). Jesus Christ gets ALL the glory (1 Cor 1:20-31). Even the very humility you have to believe is a gift of grace... "for what do you have that you did not receive."

    Lastly, take the time to read Ephesians 1:13 in light of the first 12 verses in the chapter. Reading texts in isolation is a sure way to produce unsound theology. Read in context God predestined and adopted us as sons, according to the good pleasure of His will, not ours.

    No one in his own accord could come to God and see Him unless God reveals Himself to that sinner. As it is written, no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day... And he said, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father." (Jn 6:44; Jn 6:65)

    Ezk 36:26-27 "26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you:and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them."

    The whole process of salvation is instantaneous! However, if I may put things in "slow motion" and in a nutshell, the steps of salvation are the following:

    Step 1: The effectual call:
    -We were made alive first by the Spirit:
    Eph 2:5 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved —

    -The faith given to us (not inherent in us):
    2Pe 1:1 Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
    To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:

    -We become willing to listen (Salvation is not forced):
    Psa 110:3a Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power.

    -And we listened, confessed Jesus as Lord & Savior and followed Him:
    Jn 10:27 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
    Rom 10:10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
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