"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace
depend on the humility or obedience of man
and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself
that we are obedient and humble,
he contradicts the Apostle who says,
"What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7),
and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10).
(Council of Orange: Canon 6)
Your Weekly Dose of Gospel
This issue of regeneration preceding faith raises two important questions: 1. is the faith with which we believe a result of man's own ability to trust Christ and His gospel by an act of his will in response to information that he has deduced as true in and of his own free volition? or 2. is the faith with which believe an act of God's grace alone - His gift to us, through the regenerating ministry of the Holy Spirit birthed by hearing the Word of Christ whereby we confess Jesus Christ as Lord unto salvation? IOW, is salvation a matter of us making a decision for Christ; or God choosing us in Christ? AND, why does this really matter?
I offer the following thoughts and hope you will interact with them.
-John Hendryx, Monergism.com
-John Hendryx, Monergism.com
Does Jesus himself teach that regeneration precedes faith?
Question: Does Jesus himself teach that regeneration precedes faith?
Question: Does Jesus himself teach that regeneration precedes faith?
Answer: Unequivocally, yes.
“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. But there are some of you who do not believe…And he said, ‘This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father’” (John 6:63-65).In John 6:65, Jesus says to the unbelieving Jews, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me [believe in Me] unless it is granted him by the Father.” ...No one (universal negative) can believe the gospel, UNLESS God grants it. But in saying, “This is why…” Jesus is referring to the previous verse (v. 64) where He says, “But there are some of you who do not believe.” Belief in Jesus or, as in this instance, a lack thereof is synonymous with the metaphorical idea of “coming” to Jesus. The phrase “but there are some of you...” likewise refers to its own preceding verse (v. 63) where Jesus explains, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all.” Note that Jesus does not say the flesh – i.e. human ability – helps a little; instead, he unflinchingly declares that the flesh is no help at all (or, as some versions render the last phrase, “avails for nothing”). “No help for what?” we ask. No help for giving “life.” Only the Spirit gives life (that is, quickens) and it is because of the Spirit’s exclusive role in giving life coupled with the flesh’s inability to give life that some do not believe: “No one can come to Me [believe in Me] unless God grants it.” Just as faith in Jesus and the metaphorical act of coming to Jesus are synonymous, so too God’s “granting” the believer’s coming and the Spirit’s giving of spiritual life are also synonymous. In other words, unless God grants the unbeliever faith though the quickening work of the Holy Spirit, no one will come to Christ. Said negatively, those who do not come to Jesus refuse to approach him precisely because God has not “granted” them to come by changing their naturally hostile disposition toward Him. He leaves them to their own boasted will. It is the Spirit’s giving of life and the Father’s granting of approach that leads from unbelief to faith and not the other way around.
First of all, we can all take comfort that not even a “bad invitation” can keep the elect from coming to know the Lord. This not only gives comfort in the face of cheap invitationalism, but in the wake of the shallow emerging/emergent seeker sensible ecumenical carnal invitationalism being propagated today. But, we don’t want to frustrate grace either; so yes it does matter. Finneyism, the father of all contemporary make-a-decision-for-Jesus kind of thing, left in its wake many “temporary converts” as Finney himself on his death bed referred to them. The faulty methods eventually breed a faulty gospel (e.g. The Downgrade Controversy).
Secondly, the gospel is not an offer to unregenerate men; it is a call to unregenerate men. A call to repentance from sin (Luke 24:46-49; Acts 2:38, 17:30-31; 2 Peter 3:9); a command to deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Jesus Christ as Lord (Roms. 10:9-10; Matt. 16:24-26); and a compelling to be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:18-21)..
Thirdly, as reformed, I believe that regeneration precedes faith (Titus 3:4-7; 1 Cor. 12:3). IOW, faith is not the instrument which produces regeneration; it is the by-product of one being regenerated. Faith is not a decision; it is a work of grace by God unto salvation. Even the godly sorrow over sin which leads to repentance is the will of God (2 Cor. 7:10).
The 1689 London Baptist Confession affirms this as well:
Saving Faith:Fourthly, making-a-decision invitational-altar-callism embraces the “free will of man” in salvation and denies the doctrine of total inability. It places man as the essential deciding factor in obtaining eternal life denying sovereign grace and election, predestination, foreknowledge and the covenant of redemption. Furthermore, decision-making would also imply the necessity of a sinner’s prayer promoting an easy-believism which would lead one to embrace a non-Lordship view of salvation.
1. The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word;
2. This effectual call is of God's free and special grace alone, not from anything at all foreseen in man, nor from any power or agency in the creature, being wholly passive therein, being dead in sins and trespasses, until being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit; he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it, and that by no less power than that which raised up Christ from the dead.
1. Those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth, not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ's sake alone; not by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing Christ's active obedience unto the whole law, and passive obedience in his death for their whole and sole righteousness by faith, which faith they have not of themselves; it is the gift of God.
4. God did from all eternity decree to justify all the elect, and Christ did in the fullness of time die for their sins, and rise again for their justification; nevertheless, they are not justified personally, until the Holy Spirit doth in time due actually apply Christ unto them.
Is Faith Then a Decision We Make Apart From Regeneration by the Holy Spirit?
Decision could be defined as:
a choice made by an act of the will in response to understanding certain information; or a conclusion or resolution reached after consideration.That definition functionally could rightly be applied if we are buying a new car, a pair of jeans, some groceries, an iPod, or choosing a school for our kids, etc. BUT, when it comes to salvation we cannot simply say that it is “a decision.” Why? Because, before anyone is regenerated unto eternal life through the Holy Spirit to follow Jesus Christ as Lord, we are dead in trespass and sin; by nature children of wrath; no one seeking after God, no one doing what is good, having no fear of God before their eyes, etc. (Roms. 3:10-18; Eph. 2:1-3).
Therefore, if the nature of man being so depraved—so sinful--possessing no ability in and of itself to understand or believe the correct biblical account of the gospel resulting in faith in Jesus for eternal life, he would be sanctioned forever in the fires of perdition eternally unless regeneration had taken place within him already; quickening him by the Holy Spirit upon hearing the Word of Christ, to make confession that Jesus Christ as Lord and believing in his heart that God has raised Him from the dead as to be saved. Otherwise, one would have to affirm that totally depraved-man IS a moral free independent agent, whom can exercise saving faith in the gospel of sola fide as act of their own will, able to make-a-decision to follow Christ unto eternal life without the Spirit of God first quickening his soul to embrace the gospel. And that beloved is nothing but the sand of man's own imagination, which I could never affirm.
Such is the pride of sinners;
thinking too great of themselves
and too little of God, in the
redemption of their lost soul.
Biblically, regeneration--being born again--is not produced because faith is a-decision-we-make. Regeneration precedes faith; it is the quickening of the Spirit of God upon the spiritually dead hearts and souls of the lost sons of Adam, so that we, by His grace alone, can make a confession of Jesus Christ as Lord unto salvation. Faith, then, is always the decision that follows regeneration and never precedes regeneration.
So, if someone might say that the visible sign that we see of man making a decision to follow Jesus Christ is based upon man’s ability to choose Him (faith) when presented the right information about the gospel – that would be unbiblical. However, if someone is saying that the visible sign that we see of man making a decision to follow Jesus Christ as Lord is only in response to that man being regenerated by the Spirit of God and the Word of Christ being used by the Spirit to produce faith within him so that now being made alive in Christ through the Spirit will always manifest a true and genuine confession of Christ as Lord in repentance of sin and a visible decision to follow Him – then that would be biblical.
Is God A Spectator or Originator in Salvation?
Is God a spectator in regeneration; or the originator in regeneration? I believe the later (Titus 3:4-7; Eph. 1:4-14; 1 Cor. 12:3; Heb. 12:2) and that this is what constitutes biblical evangelism and thus, a biblical gospel. If, "salvation is of the Lord" then it is all of grace; God coming to sinful through the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ and redeeming for Himself a remnant people that He has predestined from all eternity past for His own possession, purpose and glory.
As a reformed Christian, both biblically and confessionally, I firmly believe that grace must be at work in regeneration through the Spirit of God in the unregenerate for faith to be birthed and then exercised by confession for salvation to occur. Otherwise, “faith as a decision” unto eternal life IS based on ones “smart quotient” to “get” the information vs. another not getting it.
Consider the following words, from ages past, by two great divines: Spurgeon and Bonar:
Faith is chosen by God to be the receiver of salvation, because it does not pretend to create salvation, nor to help in it, but it is content humbly to receive it. Faith is the tongue that begs pardon, the hand which receives it, and the eye which sees it; but it is not the price which buys it. Faith never makes herself her own plea, she rests all her argument upon the blood of Christ. She becomes a good servant to bring the riches of the Lord Jesus to the soul, because she acknowledges whence she drew them, and owns that grace alone entrusted her with them.
Faith is not satisfaction to God. In no sense and in no aspect can faith be said to satisfy God, or to satisfy the law. Yet if it is to be our righteousness, it must satisfy. Being imperfect, it cannot satisfy; being human, it cannot satisfy, even though it were perfect That which satisfies must be capable of bearing our guilt; and that which bears our guilt must be not only perfect, but divine. It is a sin-bearer that we need, and our faith cannot be a sin-bearer. Faith can expiate no guilt; can accomplish no propitiation; can pay no penalty; can wash away no stain; can provide no righteousness. It brings us to the cross, where there is expiation, and propitiation, and payment, and cleansing, and righteousness; but in itself it has no merit and no virtue.
Faith is not Christ, nor the cross of Christ. Faith is not the blood, nor the sacrifice; it is not the altar, nor the laver, nor the mercy-seat, nor the incense. It does not work, but accepts a work done ages ago; it does not wash, but leads us to the fountain opened for sin and uncleanness. It does not create; it merely links us to that new thing which was created when the “everlasting righteousness” was brought in (Dan 9:24).
And as faith goes on, so it continues; always the beggar’s outstretched hand, never the rich man’s gold; always the cable, never the anchor, the knocker, not the door, or the palace, or the table; the handmaid, not the mistress; the lattice which lets in the light, not the sun.
Without worthiness in itself, it knits us to the infinite worthiness of Him in whom the Father delights; and so knitting us, presents us perfect in the perfection of another. Though it is not the foundation laid in Zion, it brings us to that foundation, and keeps us there, “grounded and settled” (Col 1:23), that we may not be moved away from the hope of the gospel. Though it is not “the gospel,” the “glad tidings,” it receives these good news as God’s eternal verities, and bids the soul rejoice in them; though it is not the burnt-offering, it stands still and gazes on the ascending flame, which assures us that the wrath which should have consumed the sinner has fallen upon the Substitute.
Though faith is not “the righteousness,” it is the tie between it and us. It realizes our present standing before God in the excellency of His own Son; and it tells us that our eternal standing, in the ages to come, is in the same excellency, and depends on the perpetuity of that righteousness which can never change. For never shall we put off that Christ whom we put on when we believed (Rom 12:14; Gal 3:27). This divine raiment is “to everlasting.” It waxes not old, it cannot be rent, and its beauty fadeth not away.