Renowned Calvinist teacher, R. C. Sproul, once made a bold statement:
Many Calvinists assert that people are so sinful that unless God first brings about regeneration they won’t believe in the Gospel. To such Calvinists, the correct sequence is regeneration, faith, salvation.
Similarly, John Piper, a Calvinistic pastor, asserts:
“We can say, first, that regeneration is the cause of faith… Having been born of God results in our believing. Our believing is the immediate evidence of God’s begetting.”
In this blog article, I shall address this issue: “Regarding salvation, does regeneration precede faith or does faith precede regeneration?”
Calvinists insist that man is spiritually dead in sin (‘total depravity’), the ‘T’ of the acronym TULIP) to the extent that he is unable to respond to the life-giving Gospel. According to their line of reasoning, God must infuse life to the corpse (cause regeneration) before they can believe God’s revealed truth. Is this argument valid?
If man is spiritually dead like a corpse, as Calvinists assert, why does Satan need to blind people’s minds? This shows man may be sinful but he can still respond to God’s grace (through an act of the will by faith). "Even if our Gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).
In the Parable of the Sower, “some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up” (Matthew 13:4). The birds represent Satan who takes away the precious Word of God so that it will not be able to convict sinners. Would such action on Satan’s part be necessary if man were a spiritual corpse in ‘total depravity’?
It is strange that Berean-like believers who study scriptures from cover to cover, not influenced by the Calvinist axiom above would naturally come to the opposite conclusion―faith precedes regeneration.
Many of us love John 3:16 about God’s great love and how He longs to save all who believe in Christ; we are able to recite it with ease. But the preceding verses (John 3:14-15) about the saving virtue of the bronze serpent seem less familiar.
“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life” (John 3:14-15).
This account is a throwback to a bygone era when the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness, after having escaped from slavery in Egypt (Numbers 21: 4-9). Despite receiving manna from heaven, they grumbled against God and Moses, wanting something more. God, in His wrath, sent fiery serpents which bit and killed many of them. Realising their sin, they pleaded with Moses for help. Following God’s instructions, Moses set a bronze serpent on a pole. Those who had been bitten by serpents were instructed by Moses to look at the bronze serpent on the pole so that they would not die.
Now this bronze serpent on a pole is a symbol of Christ crucified on the cross. In the same way the Israelites looked―as an act of faith―at the bronze serpent on the pole to stay alive, people just have to look to Christ on the cross, believe in His finished work, and they will be saved.
Is there any hint that regeneration occurred before they believed in the bronze serpent or Christ? No. In both instances, they merely exercised their free will―by choosing to believe―in the healing/saving virtue of the bronze serpent and Christ, respectively. The former were spared from physical death from snake bites; the latter from spiritual death because of sin. Believe, look to the bronze serpent and live! Believe, look to Christ and live! Regeneration is not mentioned at all; it certainly does not precede faith.
To further substantiate my stance, let us review several other verses:
We are saved by grace through faith, not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1).
If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9).
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name (John 1:12).
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16).
For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day (John 6:40).
Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household (Acts 16:31).
Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness (Galatians 3:6)
Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith” (Galatians 3:11).
Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God (1 John 5:1).
Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).
God’s grace is manifested through the sacrificial death of Christ at the cross, whereby He took the penalty for man’s sin. Instead of man being punished for our sin, Jesus became the sacrificial Lamb and took the punishment we so rightly deserved. As God’s wrath was poured on the crucified Christ, believers no longer have to bear the penalty of sin. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). In other words, Christ’s righteousness is imputed to believers.
But how does this grace become effectual in the lives of people? To illustrate, let’s use an analogy. In this coronavirus pandemic season, new vaccines have been fast-tracked and made available to save lives. But how do avail ourselves of its benefits? Of course, we must go to the nearest clinic or hospital to have the injection. .
Just like going for a jab that we might be protected against Covid-19, faith is the means by which gain access to God’s saving grace. Reading or hearing about the benefits of the vaccine is futile―like giving intellectual assent to the fact that Jesus died for our sins.
only way we can be saved is through faith
in Christ’s finished work on the cross (Ephesians 2:8-9). Good works or zealous
attempts to keep the Law can never save us (Titus 3:5).
Without faith and repentance, there is no regeneration. Or to put it another way: faith and repentance on the part of man precede regeneration. God isn't going to do the believing and repentance for man. http://bit.ly/2clNM0E
Jesus: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).
“But these are written so that you may believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31).So, going back to the original bone of contention, the biblical view is that faith precedes regeneration … as opposed to the axiom by R. C. Sproul above.
To summarise: Faith with repentance result in salvation and regeneration.
above axiom by renowned Calvinist, R. C. Sproul, reminds believers once again
not to be mesmerised by illustrious teachers with many followers. As believers,
we always need to scrutinise each and every teaching against the infallible Word of God,
and not simply accept any big name’s teaching or doctrine based on his fame or
stature. Be like a Berean: https://bit.ly/3mBHGvF
a superior mind does not mean one knows God better. Intellectual prowess is not
equal to spiritual maturity & discernment.
Regeneration is a supernatural act whereby God imparts new life to a sinner who chooses to believe in Christ. The basis of the new birth is Christ’s sacrificial death at the cross. The indispensable condition for this rebirth is personal faith in Christ.
The concept of regeneration (rebirth) is elucidated in John chapter 3. Nicodemus, a Jewish religious teacher, came to Jesus at night to learn more about Him. Jesus told him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). When Nicodemus questioned the idea of rebirth, Jesus reiterated, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3: 5).
Rebirth is a supernatural act of the Holy Spirit, who is likened to a wind that sweeps into a believer’s life. “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). This unique process of rebirth will always remain a mystery, like an invisible wind coming from different directions, as it is supernatural, unlike normal childbirth.
When the Holy Spirit convicts people of sin through the Word of God (Hebrews 4:12), they confess their sins and believe in Christ, thus initiating the process of regeneration. “When He (Holy Spirit) comes, He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me” (John 16:8-9). “For you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God” (1 Peter 1:23).
In what ways will regeneration benefit a believer? First, he becomes a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). Second, he becomes a child of God; God is His Father, Abba (Rom 8:15-16). Third, he becomes a partaker of His divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). Fourth, he is seated in the heavenly places with Christ (Ephesians 2:6), is ‘more than a conqueror’ (Romans 8:37) and shares in Christ’s victory over sin, the world and the devil (1 John 3:8-9, 1 John 4:4, 1 John 5:4-5). Lastly, he is delivered from the fear of death to which he has been subject to life-long bondage (Hebrews 2:15).
IS REPENTANCE NECESSARY FOR SALVATION?
Believers are saved when we trust in Christ. But does it mean that we can be saved without repenting?
IS SALVATION AN EVENT OR PROCESS?
Is salvation merely an event that happens when we make a decision to invite Christ into our life or utter the sinner’s prayer?
IS CALVIN CORRECT?
Calvin, the great reformer, believed that Christians can never lose their
salvation. That is, Once Saved, Always Saved (OSAS). Is he correct?
WHAT IS NEXT?
It is true that we receive God’s grace (salvation) through faith, not works. But, then, what comes next? God is looking for fruit: Changed lives, repentance and obedience, all of which does not nullify at all the grace we receive by faith.
DOES REGENERATION PRECEDE FAITH?