Monday, April 14, 2008

DOES REGENERATION PRECEDE FAITH?
...yes. spiritually dead sinners cannot choose the living Christ as an act of their free will or volition

"...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.
Campius Stephanus
John 6:35-44

-John Hendryx, Monergism.com
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.


Steve Camp
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:
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;

Effectual Calling:
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.

Justification:
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.
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.

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:
Charles Spurgeon
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.
Horatius Bonar
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.

60 comments:

The Spokesman said...

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?

Yes and amen! The faith with which we believe is an act of God's grace alone! The flesh indeed is no help at all. This is why this doctrine is so despised by so many - because the flesh refuses to see its depravity and fancies that it can help and must help and that there is some vestige of good somewhere in it!

The flesh rejects the testimony of God that "nothing good dwells in the flesh" and it cannot receive God's testimony for it is "hostile toward God and does not subject itself to the law of God" (see Romans 8:7).

Eric said...

Thanks for these posts. They challenge me and I'm not sure I always grasp everything.

I would like to ask a question since I'm struggling with some things.

I have professed Christ for many years since I was a youngster, yet there were many periods of defiance, willful sin, bad behavior, etc.

I truly believe he is the Son of God, was the sacrifice for our Sin, died, rose again, and ascended. However, I was not consistently in fellowship or in the word.

Within the past several weeks I've realized what horrible choices I made, how sinful my behavior was - how disobedient I was. I've been seeking a biblically sound church / fellowship, I've been reading the word more consistently. I truly believe that Jesus is the Son of God, died for Sin, rose again, and I'm committed to living obediently - although I'm trying to figure out what it means to deny myself daily and take up the/His/my cross in true discipleship. I know that our new nature is evident by obedience and the fruits we bear, yet, I have no perspective on these things.

I have always taken my salvation for granted and at times have been earnest to wanting to be fully committed to Christ's Lordship For the first time I see how the Law truly convicts me of my sin and how unworthy I am. I've never felt so accused or condemned.

This morning I had to preach the Gospel to myself that God extends his grace to me and I'm trying to fully realize this.

This is somewhat consuming my thoughts right now. The pastors I've talked to say this is a good thing as I am seeking God and that the accuser is also dredging up all the old "junk / sin."

If anyone has any thoughts I'd be grateful.

The Spokesman said...

Eric,

As you seek for the assurance of your salvation do not depend upon any man or just an orthodox profession of faith. Men are often too quick to give comfort and assurance that is not based solidly on what God has revealed in His Word. And even the demons are orthodox in what they believe about Christ and they are not saved.

1 John was inspired by the Holy Spirit to give assurance of salvation to those who are truly saved. If you are saved God will reveal it and if you are not He will reveal that too.

Sometimes when the Holy Spirit is convicting of sin, and righteousness, and judgment, men may mistake His activity as that of the "accuser."

When you get a chance here are two messages that may help:

God Helps Those Who Cannot Help Themselves and Warning to Professing Christians

I pray that this helps!

DAO said...

Simply put, I would contend that the "nature of faith" is at the heartbeat, the very pulse of Biblical and Protestant Christianity. Seen rightly, all else finds its proper place. As John Calvin writes:
"Hence, in order that the word of God may gain full credit, the mind must be enlightened, and the heart confirmed, from some other quarter.
We shall now have a full definition of faith, if we say that it is a firm and sure knowledge of the divine favor toward us, founded on the truth of a free promise in Christ, both revealed to our minds, and sealed on our hearts, by the Holy Spirit."
("Institutes of the Christian Religion" Book 3, ch 2.1-7)

Also read Luther’s Summary to Galatians for his contrast of "passive" vs "active" righteousness. here's the link:
http://p66.blogspot.com/2005/11/active-vs-passive-which-is-it.html

Ultimately, we must understand if "pistis" is a noun or a verb.
God bless Steve...good sharpening together

Carla said...

Steve asks:

"is salvation a matter of us making a decision for Christ; or God choosing us in Christ? AND, why does this really matter?

Of course I believe the Scriptures clearly teach that salvation is a matter of God's will and not man's. It's your second question that I think so many people skip right on by.

Not only does it matter, it matters why it matters, if that sounds acceptable.

It matters because it all hinges on how we view God, how we view His word, our own desperate need (and depravity) and ultimately who receives the glory for the salvation of man.

I know a lot folks that believe they exercised their free will, took that step of faith and with every head bowed and every eye closed put up that hand to ask the Lord into their heart. These same folks will defend their free will with all that they can muster up, then turn right around and passionately deny that man gets any credit for his salvation. They do in fact affirm the sovereignty of God but to justify their "faith before regeneration" position, they will tell you that God is just as sovereign as He always has been when He chose to allow man to make that decision (and many of those same people will also quote Romans 12:3 out of context to try and explain that all men have a bit of faith and can chose to exercise it). They cannot see the inconsistancy of such a statement because this teaching of free will is so ingrained in their thought process that they honestly believe God's saving grace comes as a result of looking down the halls of time and electing those whom He knew ahead of time would believe (because they took that step of faith). No other explanation will do for them.

The very idea that man has nothing to do with his own salvation, is deeply offensive to the pride in man. Surely man must have SOME say in the matter? Some control? Some small part to play? Fact is, the prideful human being just wants some of the credit for it, and can't tolerate the idea that he gets no credit whatsoever. This is an incredibly difficult truth to get ahold of for a lot of Christians - and yet - it's exactly what the Bible teaches.

Oh, but when we DO finally see it, we see the grace of God in a much more accurate light. We see ourselves in the very state that the Scriptures tell us we are (spiritually dead, prior to regeneration, at enmity with Him) in before He removed that heart of stone, and we understand grace so much better than we ever did before. It is an incredible thing to have your understanding opened to this truth because it causes you truly give Him the honor He is due. So yes, it matters and it matters why it matters, because one position shares credit with God, and the other gives Him all the glory and takes no credit at all.

Strong Tower said...

dao- Ultimately, we must understand if "pistis" is a noun or a verb.

You don't know how many times I have tried to explain that to people, even my reformed brothers.

I think Calvin's Book 3 and elsewhere in the Institutes is one of the finest definitions of faith that is around. As carla pointed out, we shoot right past the depth and the beauty of faith. How trite to treat it as choice.

My former SBC pastor thought of it that way; that Christ died to provide all men the choice to either believe or not to believe. To him that is what the blood of Christ purchased, not salvation, merely the ability to believe. It what was simply what could be done with faith. How diminutive. IOW he was defining faith as libertarian free-will. Man o man, what riches of Christ he misses. Recently I read Calvin's treatment on prayer. And, there it was, the faith that received salvation also is the instrument that receives the Spirit of prayer; the desire, the impetous, the longing to return home. That's it, the faith, a noun, what grace that saves a reach like me!

Strong Tower said...

That should be wretch. Still, it is quite a reach...

DAO said...

Luther says in his Galatians intro:
"Do we then do nothing? Do we do nothing at all for the obtaining of this righteousness? I answer, Nothing at all!"
(see: http://p66.blogspot.com/2005/11/active-vs-passive-which-is-it.html)
Do you see God, in the Garden of Eden, announcing that He will put enmity between the serpent and the woman - who are now on team rebellion - and thus, of His own free will, seperate them (when He doesn't have to)...bring about Messiah...and let the crushing begin? And where is the man & woman? God has them standing in the corner as it were...and He isn't even speaking with them yet. In Gen 3 we see the only redemptive elements in God's sovereign, unconditional, free, grace promise...and His work of clothing them in accecptable garments...

Can you not smell the aroma of Jesus Christ? Free! 100% free justification by God. No human decisional regeneration here...doesn't exist. never has, never will

Soli Deo Gloria

Michele Rayburn said...

I was just listening to a sermon about regeneration preceding faith preached by a dear Pastor friend of mine. So, I wanted to share some of what I learned from him, together with some of my own thoughts.

First of all, John 6:44 says:
"No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him...".

1) The Arminian may think that this implies that we "can" come to Christ, but they neglect seeing the emphasis in that verse being put on "the Father". It is "the Father who sent Me [that] draws him". We are not able to draw ourselves. So here we see the Father as the "author and finisher".

And the Father "draws" us, depicting irresistable grace. He draws us by the hearing of His Word, changing our mind and our spirit, causing us to desire Him and to want to learn more about Him.

2) Our problem is not "may we come to Christ?". God calls us, commands us. Yes, we "may" come. But the problem is "can we come to Christ?”...our ability.

Now this is key: the very reason that we "cannot" come to Christ is that we have a *sin* problem. Jesus came to *save* us from our *sins*. And it is our *sin* that renders us unable and unwilling to come to Him. We are bound by our fallen nature, so we cannot come to Christ unless or until God gives us a new nature...makes us a "new creation". This is regeneration.

But "All that the Father gives Me *will* come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out." (John 6:37)

3) John 6:45 says "It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught by God.' Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me."

Here again, we see God as the "author and finisher". "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God". (Romans 10:17) "They shall all be taught by God...everyone who has heard and learned from the Father..." This comes first.

Then, that person "comes to Me [Christ]".

A person is commanded to come to Christ, but he cannot because:

1) The Scriptures say that we are dead in our trespasses and sins. So, a dead person cannot even hear God unless God gives him "ears to hear".

2) A person, dead in sin, cannot change his own nature. It is a work of the Spirit of God. There is no Scripture to support our having any part in helping God in changing our very nature.

If we understand and believe that "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God", then we will understand that the word of God came first, into our ears, into our minds, before we could have faith to believe.

That "word of God" in this verse is the "rhema" of God, witnessing to our spirit by His Spirit. That's when we finally come to believe in Him.

Why does it matter which came first, regeneration or faith? Because if it is by an act of our will first, apart from God, it is of works. And if it is of works, it is no longer by God's grace. It then becomes a works religion by which we cannot be saved.

If it is not by grace alone, it is not of God. It has to be all of grace and not of works, "lest anyone should boast". (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Ben said...

what is the difference between if it is a noun or a verb? I have never heard this before.

DAO said...

ben
the difference for me comes down to wether faith is God's gift or man's action.

the gift is knowing, seeing, certainty, persuasion, confidence...not man doing, contributing, yielding, committing, deciding, etc...

the reason faith is a gift is because it is linked with grace, which is linked to God actually, truly, really PROMISING something good, when all we deserve is just judgment.
see this in Gen 3, 15 and then romans 4
i posted a brief exposition on Gen 3 on: www.daovideo.blogspot.com
"God Saver Sinners (Parts 1&2)
would love to talk further.
God bless

Ben said...

Dao,

I still am having a hard time with the noun/verb thing. It seems that John uses it as a verb and others use it as both noun & verb.

So when I see it as a noun then it is from God and when I see it as a verb than it comes from us? Would that be the gist of what you are saying?

DAO said...

not exactly ben,
let me say i really appreciate you questions and desire to grasp what I am saying.

the gospels are historical narrative, the epistles teaching. the narrative describes what happens to those who beleive, the letters the prescription, the how this believing occurs.
it may be more helpful if you read closely Genesis 3. redemption, in any and every sence is due to the promise of God - 3.15 and the work of God - 3.21
see Gen 15 closely and Pauls treatment of that passage in Romans 4.
The framework is more of "lazarus, come forth". A work of (new)creation and (new) birth to commuicate to us that not only the grace of God in His free promise in Christ to take away your sin, but also faith is a gift. It is seeing what God has done/promised in Christ. see Pipers bios on Augustine (http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Biographies/1474_The_Swan_is_Not_Silent/)
and Calvin ( http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Biographies/1471_The_Divine_Majesty_of_the_Word/)

Very Helpful.
As well as this:
http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/ConferenceMessages/ByDate/2003/146_A_Divine_and_Supernatural_Light_Immediately_Imparted_to_the_Soul_by_the_Spirit_of_God/

as I say, I have found these super helpful.
danny

Ben said...

Danny,

Thank you for your time and I will look at those links you provided, some of them no longer work so I will find them by doing a search on Piper's site.

While I can appreciate and agree that faith is a gift, I do not see the relevance/importance of the whole noun/verb distinction that has been alluded to here.

Only Look said...

All I know anymore is that He did it. Thats it. I cannot argue with God about what He did for me.

I would never have wanted God in my life if he would have let me be. Clearly as I look back he was actively pursuing me everywhere I went and tried to run and yet I know as Spurgeon that one look to Him at the cross made me whole.

However he does it...He does it and for that I am so thankful. I like your comment sister Rayburn as usual.

Good topic.

Grace upon grace,

Brian

DAO said...

Romans 4:16 That is why "it" depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring...

All I can really say, along with Brian (and others) is that we are saved BY grace...and grace alone, and not even by faith, but through faith.

God in His graciousness, rather than His justice, freely hands Christ over to our souls with NO strings attached. Free means free...
and that's good news, when one is certain and assured that God is true and never lies!
Soli Deo Gloria in every sense of the phrase!
blessings,
danny

The Seeking Disciple said...

Yet if faith is a gift giving to the regenerated elect after their salvation, how is the lost condemned for their lack of faith (John 3:19-21)? It seems that reformed theology teaches justification unto faith and not by faith.

Mitch said...

Seeking Disciple,

The error is in thinking that regeneration is salvation. They are two distinct things. Regeneration is nothing more than God opening our eyes and unstopping our ears so that we can respond to the call in a saving way. The only difference here between the Reformed Arminian and the Reformed position is that once this act has happened the Arminian says that you can reject the call.

Praise be to God

Todd said...

Steve,
You can't give a definitive "yes". Any short answer will not prove your "...yes". And at any attempt at a long answer the explanation slips into metaphorical mayhem.

This statement is an example of the difficulty with a short answer:

[Thirdly, as reformed, I believe that regeneration precedes faith (Titus 3:4-7; 1 Cor. 12:3).]

Titus 3:4-7 is consistent with 'by grace through faith' and doesn't express generation prior to faith. And 1 Cor. 12:3 is consistent with 'by grace through faith' where anyone to whom Jesus is Lord will have the Holy Spirit and therefore does not believe Jesus is accursed and would not say it. Or, this also may not be any better rendering of the verse than yours, but it's just as palatable.

I respect your perogative to act theological and speculate about these things, which is widely popular, but your proposition(Calvin's view of 'inability'), as you've heard many times before and will continue to hear many more times, is highly speculative. And speculation is not good scriptural analytical method.

Somebody had to say it. In God's security we go on brother. Todd

SJ Camp said...

Todd
Thank you for your comment.

Titus 3 brings both issues to light: justified by grace; by the renewing and regeneration of the Spirit. Regeneration is not a responsive act to my faith. God is always the initiator in our redemption.

This is the point of Eph. 1:4-14: elected by God; redeemed by Christ; sealed with the Spirit. It is all of Him and not of us.

In regeneration by the Holy Spirit (being born again John 3), it is all of grace. But our faith is not the initiator in salvation. It is the responsive fruit to the work of the Holy Spirit already upon sinners.

It's interesting, when you do a word study on the Greek words for salvation or saved - they are always in the passive voice. Meaning, salvation is not something we cooperate with or are involved in. It is something done to us. IOW, we have nothing to contribute to our salvation; and even the faith to believe is God's precious gift to us.

Now, how should this effect our evangelism? We should proclaim the gospel boldly; preach it passionately and accurately; but then knowing these great truths takes keeps our evangelism away from manipulation. We don't have to brow beat people; we don't have to have forty choruses of Just As I Am sung in order for that last one to come. We don't have to have counselors begin to walk an aisle first in order to manipulate others to come also because they see so many "responding" they will feel more comfortable in doing so. That kind of methodology is rubbish and doesn't produce one soul for the kingdom.

In biblical evangelism, we present the truth claims of the gospel clearly without gimmicks, without manipulation, knowing the results are with the Lord. And we do so under His command for us to do so and that "faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ." The Holy Spirit in regeneration uses the proclamation of the gospel to grant faith to those who will by God's grace and sovereign electing love respond in confession of Christ Jesus as Lord. The elect will always repent and believe. Why? Because it is God's work upon their lives and in their hearts to regenerate them. Being born again is only a work of the Spirit and not of man.

That is why we can say with confidence that regeneration precedes faith; it has too or what you are saying is that our faith absent of the Spirit's work of regeneration is what brings us into right relationship with God.

Peace,
Steve

SJ Camp said...

Mitch
John3:4-8 "4Nicodemus said to him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?" 5Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' 8 The wind blows(P) where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."

Sounds like salvation to me?

I noticed by your profile that you live in Franklin, TN. That is where I live. What church do you go to?

Grace and peace,
Steve

Mitch said...

Steve,

"In regeneration the understanding is illuminated by the Holy Spirit, that it may understand both the mysteries and will of God. And the will itself is not only changed by the Spirit, but it is also endued with faculties, that, of its own accord, it may both will and do good." 2nd Helvetic Confession.

I always liked that description of regeneration. Without regeneration one cannot enter the Kingdom of God because one would not be able to understand spiritual things. I see regeneration as the 2nd step in the order of salvation. So while it is a part of the salvation process it is not the complete salvation process. Hope that makes sense to someone other than me.

My point to Seeking Disciple was that while Arminius agreed that the Spirit must change, illumine or transform the person- once this act happened the person then can choose to accept or reject the rest of the salvation process. So when SD wrote that “reformed theology teaches justification unto faith and not by faith” I was pointing out that if that were true then it would equally apply to Reformed Arminianism.

I go to a Methodist church and stick out like a sore thumb.

Praise God for His grace & mercy

Todd said...

Steve,
I appreciate your comments.

I disagree with you. Your theories on 'regeneration preceeding faith' are not stated as such in scripture. That alone would normally be the end of any controversy.

Especially on through the growing up of the nation of Israel, faith has always been the initiator of salvation. I don't see where that has changed.

With reagrd to 'election', God has not explained His process of 'election' to the point where you can make the claims you make. Everything He, through His word, has chosen to share with us on His 'electing', and 'regeneration' is easily incorporaterd into a sound understanding of man having his own free will to behold, believe, remember, listen and obey.

The truth is that with the lack of clear scriptural support for your specific ideas on 'election' and 'regeneration' you could be in error. Surely not departing from your gospel and mine but distorting it to whatever a degree. Hey, you solicited interaction here.

These are just my sincere thoughts from which I don't mean anything but to strive toward closer toward the mark of a sound understanding. It's where my logic(?) takes me. This is a venue where we opinionated ones, you and I, come to learn and be corrected, and teach others if we can. You'd probably agree that earnest discussion is not always for the fragile of heart.

I'm almost trying to avoid a discussion here because of the nature and tactics and fruitlessness of so many of the debates around christendom. Tactics that, though highly refined, lack the real power of God and don't really bear much fruit or redeem anyones time profitably.

So just recieve my general critisisms; know that they are out there; know that you wouldn't want your comments column to be to one-sided and press on with your own admirable conviction before the Lord.

Peace and fellowship,
Todd

SJ Camp said...

Todd
"Everything He, through His word, has chosen to share with us on His 'electing', and 'regeneration' is easily incorporaterd into a sound understanding of man having his own free will to behold, believe, remember, listen and obey."

This is the issue, IMHO, that is at the foundation of this important and helpful dialogue. The doctrine of the sin and total inability of man. In the Calvinist "TULIP" - the hardest letter to grasp is not the "L" (limited atonement), but the "T" (total inability - depravity). When you get that letter right, as it were, then this issue of regeneration will really fall into place for you biblically (and I don't say that pridefully to you.. but sincerely).

May I encourage you to review passages such as Ephesians 2:1-3 and Romans 3:10-18.

On your statement concerning "free will" - that really gives foundation to your beliefs and I appreciate your honesty though I couldn't disagree more that man's will is really "free." Have you read Luther's The Bondage of the Will? If not, an excellent tome to consider in the backdrop of the Scriptures I recommended to you above.

I look forward to your response...

Glad you are sticking with me on this discussion. It's worth it my brother.

In His Sovereign Electing Love...
Campi
Psalm 51:5

SJ Camp said...

Mitch
Good to have you part of this important discussion too brother. Thank you for your comments.

""In regeneration the understanding is illuminated by the Holy Spirit, that it may understand both the mysteries and will of God. And the will itself is not only changed by the Spirit, but it is also endued with faculties, that, of its own accord, it may both will and do good." 2nd Helvetic Confession."

BINGO! YES!

So where don't we agree now? Notice the progression: it is the Spirit who regenerates, illuminates, and the will itself is changed... Amen. Then what follows is doing good - the fruit of our salvation not the root of it! (I.e. Titus 3:4-8).

Off to see Ben Steins new movie, Expelled, on creationism vs. evolution - should be good.

Sola Gratia,
Campi

thomastwitchell said...

So little indeed is faith conceived as containing in itself the energy or ground of salvation, that it is consistently represented as, in its origin, itself a gratuity from God in the prosecution of His saving work. It comes, not of one's own strength or virtue, but only to those who are chosen of God for its reception (II Thess. ii. 13), and hence is His gift (Eph. vi. 23, cf. ii. 8, 9, Phil. i. 29), through Christ (Acts iii. 16, Phil. i. 29, I Pet. i. 21, cf. Heb. xii. 2), by the Spirit (II Cor. iv. 13, Gal. v. 5), by means of the preached word (Rom. x. 17, Gal. iii. 2, 5) ; and as it is thus obtained from God (II Pet. i. 1, Jude 3, I Pet. i. 21), thanks are to be returned to God for it (Col. i. 4, II Thess. i. 3). Thus, even here all boasting is excluded, and salvation is conceived in all its elements as the pure product of unalloyed grace, issuing not from, but in, good works (Eph. ii. 8-12). The place of faith in the process of salvation, as biblically conceived, could scarcely, therefore, be better described than by the use of the scholastic term 'instrumental cause.' Not in one portion of the Scriptures alone, but throughout their whole extent, it is conceived as a boon from above which comes to men, no doubt through the channels of their own activities, but not as if it were an effect of their energies, but rather, as it has been finely phrased, as a gift which God lays in the lap of the soul. 'With the heart,' indeed, 'man believeth unto righteousness'; but this believing does not arise of itself out of any heart indifferently, nor is it grounded in the heart's own potencies; it is grounded rather in the freely-giving goodness of God, and comes to man as a benefaction out of heaven. -BBW

Ben- It might have been a little confusing to say that faith is a noun. Let me propose this, when we say man, the noun encompasses many things. So, it is a bit unfair to explain faith as a mere noun. Far from that it encompasses what B.B.Warfield says above and what John Murray has succintly defined as knowledge, conviction, and trust. The three are never without one another.

When we say man we at first are confronted with the knowledge of the thing, but we are also brought to direct acknowledgement that man is truly what we know to be. But, further, being man we have an immediate knowledge, experientially of the thing. Along with them, we know of what man does, and do those things because we are also what we do. A tree shall be known by its product.

Faith likewise is sure and certain knowledge, but more, it is the possession of that knowledge as one in being with it. Now, faith does certain things peculiar to it. It produces fruit in kind. That is it trusts in what it is convinced is the true knowledge which proceeds out of the good treasure within.

Far from being an lever which can be thown to send the train down the right track or the left, it is the engineer, the engine, and the track as well as all the graces that follow including the caboose all of which cannot be waylaid for it has only one destiny. What God does for us is to provide all of this and in a way that we are not just in it but it is in us.

Jesus describes our faith in relationship to the Father and him. We in them and they in us, just as the Father is in Christ and he in him. He has worked a miracle of joining us to himself in vital union so that we have the mind of Christ with which we behold the Father. Our faith is much like the Man Christ Jesus, who inspite of all the facts to the contrary in the unbelieving world, knew where he came from, what he was doing and where he was going. He trusted fully in the Father knowing that he would not be abandoned to see corruption.

I think the best view of faith that we can get is to look to Christ, the author, archegos (first leader in) and the telieotes (the final goal), the perfector of our faith. He indeed is the summation of it. Keys to understanding that include the idea that he, though without sin, learned obedience by the things he suffered and having done all that he was commanded, returned to the Father from whom he was sent. This is the faith which comes down out of heaven, goes forth and does that thing it was sent to do, and returns to the Father, not with empty hands, but with the very life that God has given, Christ's life for us which is now in us by grace, ready to be receive into his kingdom as his own dear Son.

Hope that helps.

Todd said...

Have a good evening and great fellowship day in the Lord and I'll catch back up on Monday. His great electing love is sure and true like you say brother, thanks for the reminder. Todd

Terry Rayburn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Terry Rayburn said...

1. Much can be clarified if we understand that faith is not a "decision" ("I choose to accept, or I choose to believe").

It is rather a "revelation" ("I see!").

2. This revelation comes sovereignly from God to His elect at some time (as the "Wind" blows where It will), in the form of regeneration.

3. But regeneration is more than just "...God opening our eyes and unstopping our ears so that we can respond to the call in a saving way," as Mitch first stated.

Regeneration is the creation of a "new creature", the "new man", our very nature made new, old things passed away, all things becoming new (2 Cor. 5:17).

This new creature also becomes "one with [Christ]" through the indwelling of His Spirit (1 Cor. 6:13), and by nature now loves Christ and hates sin.

4. When this regeneration takes place, there is the REVELATION of the truth of Jesus Christ, and since it is a revelation, he who was blind now "sees".

He can't HELP but see. Christ has been revealed and he can't NOT believe in Him. That's the foundation of Irresistable Grace.

5. When faith is wrongly taught as a "decision" to believe (without any Biblical warrant), it robs the very name of Jesus of it's essential meaning given to Him before His birth ("He will be called Jesus [Jehovah Saves], because He WILL save His people from their sins.").

6. That anyone would "choose" Christ while they're still "dead in their sins and trespasses" is an absurdity.

7. Contrary to what Todd is saying, faith can't be the initiator, since it can only come by effectual revelation.

If I ask you, "Do you think I have a penny in my hand?", and my hand is closed, you can't truly believe "Yes" or "No".

You may mean to trust me when I say I do have a penny in my hand, but you can't "know".

However, if I open my hand, and the penny is visibly there, your "faith" is assured. You can't NOT believe I have a penny in my hand.

Why? Because it has been "revealed" to you. Such is the revelation of Jesus Christ in the heart of the regenerated, and the resulting faith.

Blessings,
Terry

DAO said...

kudos Terry,
I would say your thoughts are well said.
MacArthurs message from the T4G08 included this from the Apostle John:

For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.
(John 5:21)

wow!
danny

Todd said...

Terry,
Pertaining to this following paragraph of yours, could you do me a favor by explaining to me your reasoning that the ‘wind’ is God’s Spirit and not merely an 'illustration' of a ‘reborn’ person’s spirit? I would appreciate that.

[2. This revelation comes sovereignly from God to His elect at some time (as the "Wind"
blows where It will), in the form of regeneration.]


Thanks,
Todd

Todd said...

Steve,
It's easy for one to rework scripture with his own words and enable it, through himself, to have it say just about anything he'd like it to say. He may get it 'dead on', or get lucky and come close, or he may completely miss the authors intended meaning. So one's commentary on the meaning of scripture is only of so much 'use'. We really must rely on scripture's own comentary. And that's an oversimplification yet very sound groundrule one can use when faced with piles and piles of commentary and varied teachings on scripture.

Please...we could share the 'best' of our favorite theologians with each other and indulge in the same fruitless stalemate that they ultimately wind up in every time they embark on the debate of 'inability'. Don't pass me off to your favorite theologian because it's bound to be more indoctrinating than enlightening. If you're excited about something he has to say on the subject then rekindle your excitement and tell me what it is. I'm sure reading that work from Luther would be fascinating but there're too many more fascinating things, spiritually profitable things, that tower over it right now.

I'm sure there's nothing wrong with using a favorite church father to support a claim but that's provided you already have an independent scriptural understanding of it yourself that can stand alone expressly made by scripture.

Again, we can either embark on a tangle of words by using others conflicting interpretations, or come along side it and listen to it directly, as the ones to whom it is being spoken, as it was intended.

Brother Steve:[May I encourage you to review passages such as Ephesians 2:1-3 and Romans
3:10-18.]


I appreciate that.

In Ephesians chapter 1 Paul is talking about our inheritance in Christ, prearranged from the time of the promise made to faithful Abraham and his descendents, presently given to us based on our hearing and believing in the gospel. He never makes mention of anyone the gospel is not available to. He makes mention of others who do not yet believe, and may never, and he makes mention of gentiles in general, those believing and others not. But we know the Lord says the gospel is now available to the gentiles in general and never intimates that it is not available to some. He never refers to an 'non-elect' but only to a 'non-believer'; isolated, and distinguished only by his ignorance and understandable hardness of heart, since the devil, nature and his flesh are trying to keep him in bondage.

So far as I can tell(please correct me) there is no one who has been elected to 'not be able
to respond' to the gospel; apart from those specific members of the Jewish nation cited by Jesus or the prophets. Nor is God's election mentioned here.

In Romans 3:10-18 which you cited, convicts everyone of sin. It specifies that through the Law and the prophets God was indeed manifested and the world was accountable before Him. It says the nation of Israel to be a testimony of him to the world to see. Indeed no one sought Him and all who saw Him turned aside. And then just aftward says that redemption has come as a gift through grace, still speaking in regards to the world, in Jesus Christ for all those who believe. Christ displayed publically to the world to demonstate His righteous gift of grace contained for us in Jesus for all of those who believe.

Well, here I go debating Steve, just like I already predicted was fruitless use of time. Oh well.

Because of the lack of content within these verses of anything pertaining to your views on 'election', and man's 'inablity to believe', I'm forced to conclude that, in my view at least, these views of yours come from your own personal preference. As well as perhaps things you have heard from some of the more imaginative church fathers.


There’s no indication that men are regenerated before the time of belief, at which they are given the gift of regeneration through the Spirit. I’m thinking, from my way of looking at things, that in believing that men need to be ‘regenerated’ by God in order to hear God’s call, you are mistaking that for the ‘gradual process’ - be it sometimes minutes, sometimesor years - of man’s being generally ‘able’ to see and hear God’s call through His written and spoken Word.

Guys look, hasn’t the Lord invited us to be joined to Him. “But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” 1 Cor. 7:16

Surely it’s not us doing the joining, He’s done it through the provision of a Savior for us
to join with by our faith. It’s completely His doing, and by His design, even by His command, for us to use our “eyes to see and ears to hear” and behold the Savior. That's it, by His design. He’s done it all. If we percieve that we can boast then our perception is nullified by the Lord Himself in “Let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows me...”. (9:24). When we understand that He is The God then that is pleasing faith to Him. Some think that is too simple but He makes it clear to me that He does not.

I know, perhaps that line of thinking, to you, seems to say that we can merely look up, believe, and thus(and presto!), aquire eternal life, seemingly though our own means.

He's still done it all.

So let me just toss a few of my views at you and try and be done.

I beleive it’s fair to understand that the “upward call of God in Christ Jesus” is the ‘call’, and intended for all men (Php 3:14). I believe “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” and are presently availble to “all men”, after God “has shut up all in
disobedience so that He may show mercy to all”. Now, surely this is not a ‘master’s thesis’ but is this wrong? Am I handling this wrongly? Do I need to push these simple truths aside in error guys?

You've heard it all before:

"Will men no longer cry out? If they do will God hide His ear from their crys of affliction?

I know many bright God-seeking men desparately crying out in affliction, even some of them giving away much of what they own to seek God, but who will not consider my telling tem anymore of Jesus, the Son of God, who (most know) 'was' here on earth, as a revelation of God Himself to the world. They won't consider Him because of influences they indeed do demonstrate to me which are holding them in bondage right now from hearing Him. Perhaps if I were willing to lose their account I could plant a seed, or water a seed, but in many instances I haven't been willing to give them enough of what I own to make their seed take root. That's not to rule any of them out from eventually coming to God through Christ, but I have to think some may not. Some may eventually see through the blinding and deceptive influences and some may not. All can if they listen closely to what He's said.

Or so I view it.

I really need you to show me scripture talking directly 'on point' to your controversial views on man's inability to believe. Otherwise I have to conclude (perhaps in my humble and insignificant mind only) that you are going after something that may not be there.

And I don't think either one of us has time for "the" debate we've seen so many times before, so either we are going to impress each other with some fresh ideas or we'll spare each other the immense waste of time associated with those debates.

Hey, I only hope I've expressed myself in a way that befits the spirit of brotherly love and the pursuit of understanding.

I'm sure you'll tell me exactly what you think here Steve, and then we can perhaps start to move on from it. Thanks!

Much peace and fellowship,
Todd

Terry Rayburn said...

Todd,

Three reasons why the "wind" in John 3:8 must be representative of the Holy Spirit:

1. The Greek word for "wind" is the same for spirit.

2. The "wind" is portrayed as sovereign, blowing whereever it will. Man is not sovereign. God the Spirit is.

3. The picture is of being "born", not of making some decision. One does not "birth" himself, rather he is "born" by someone other than himself, in this case, the Holy Spirit.

4. The whole context is one of a person's inability. He can't even "see" the Kingdom of God, let alone believe in its King, until he is born again. What motivation would there be for him to "born" himself again, as a being who is dead in sins and trespasses?

Frankly, Todd, this seems so self-evident to me that I'm at a total loss as to how the "wind" could in any way be the the spirit of man.

Blessings,
Terry

Terry Rayburn said...

Todd,

Sorry, make that "four" :)

Terry

Todd said...

Terry,
Consider this.

Brother Terry:[1. The Greek word for "wind" is the same for spirit.]

I think that it would follow then that these words were the Greek words for "wind" and "spirit" - not "Wind" or "Spirit", - and the wind, whose "sound" it says we can hear but cannot see it come or go, was being used to illustrate the invisible nature of the process of a man's spiritual rebirth. Not some sort of willy-nilly process of election. Surely the 'rebirth' is God's Spirit at work with man's, but for your meaning to be correct, I think you would have to argue that the author chose the wrong Greek word for the word "Wind", if he intended it to denote God's Spirit.

[2. The "wind" is portrayed as sovereign, blowing whereever it will. Man is not sovereign. God the Spirit is.]

True, the wind is God's and it blows where He wishes, but, in a large sense, we 'do' know from where "It" comes and we 'do' know where "It" is going. The Lord wants us to know. I don't think He intends the statement to propose a a guessing game as to 'who' can be reborn, but that, while not seen, it is what the process 'will look like', if you will. Invisible.

When Nicodemus looks upon the Son of Man who descended from heaven and believes that He is bringing eternal life, then he will be reborn. Not when he climbs a second time into his mother's womb.


[3. The picture is of being "born", not of making some decision. One does not "birth" himself, rather he is "born" by someone other than himself, in this case, the Holy Spirit.]

Alright, but the picture statement does not speak specifically of "God" either, or 'Him' making some decision. In a very direct way, it's making a distinction between the 'spiritual nature' of being reborn and "entering a second time into his mother's womb" to be reborn.

[4. The whole context is one of a person's inability. He can't even "see" the Kingdom of God, let alone believe in its King, until he is born again. What motivation would there be for him to "born" himself again, as a being who is dead in sins and trespasses?]

No Terry. That is where you are seriously mistaken. Christ does not say one cannot "see" the Kingdom of God, He says one cannot 'enter' into it, unless he is born again. Christ not only tells us that we can 'believe' but tells us we will have to believe in the Son of Man. Nicodemus asked Him, "How can these things be?". Perhaps that was a type of cry of anguish from Nicodemus and the Lord gave him, and all men who would come later, an answer by which he could be persuaded and committed.

People of the O.T. Jewish nation were "dead in their sins" and were persuaded by God many times and in many ways to return to Him. As we know, they were an example provided for our instruction. That is how they were motivated and that lesson is there for our motivation today.

'What motivation was there for Nicodemus to "born himself again" as a being who is dead in sins and trespasses'?

Simply that Nicodemus was motivated by something. We have reason to think that he didn't understand, that he did understand, and that he partly understood or was on his way toward understanding. But he was fully motivated.

We have reason to think that he was dead in his sins. What was he to you?

You just said he was dead in his sins. The correct answer is that he was dead in his sins and he was seeking after God.

You've been persuaded somehow that being 'dead in our sins and trespasses' means we are incapable of hearing God through Christ. That's unfortunate and to me a likely error. There are some who teach that by asking us to rely on our imaginations. I have a very healthy imagination that my mind tells not to go there.

So anyway, when you say, "The Greek word for "wind" is the same for spirit",(as opposed to when you had them 'both' capitalized before), I think you should take that to heart, and understand the verse accordingly.

Thanks for responding.

With all respect,
Todd

Strong Tower said...

But Todd, the context is John 1:13. The able are those who were not born of the will of man, but of God.

The ability to recieve the truth comes after, not before the newbirth.

Note the past tense: But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

This can legitimately be rewritten: But as many as who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will or man but of God, received Him: to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.

The being born-again, anothen gennao (caused to come into existence from above in John 3:3) precedes the receiving. It is: those who recieve who were, not those who recieve who will be.

Throughout the Gospels it is key that the eyes and ears of the understanding must be given first before the mysteries of the kingdom can be understood. The Great Mystery is Christ himself the Savior. Faith, Ephesians says is the favor of God, a free gift and has no origination in man, Ephesians 2:8.

As for hearing the wind as an excuse for saying that we can hear the gospel and having heard then believe and by that be regenerated: "Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony." The same word lambano is accept and recieve. And Jesus later, furthering this, says: "It is because you cannot hear My word." When he teaches the parables he tells his disciples that it has not been given to all to hear. It is then, necessarily limited by the gift.

So in the example of the Spirit being heard, the emphasis is not on the hearing but on His invisibility, undiscernable work. The hearing is a result of the hidden work. Sound does not originate within the ear, or the mind, but is impressed upon them by what is unseen without them. And that is the point. It is not the hearing merely of the words but requires both the outward and the inward work and both are necessary for the organs of hearing to work. That we hear and see the work of the Spirit is as Jesus emphasizes, a hidden work that is only noticed after it is passed. Connected to the idea of birth, the secret place of conception, the forming of the organs is not according to the thing conceived. But is the creative action of another.

The word eido that John uses in John 3:3 means to comprehend with the mind. Jesus is standing right before Nick and Nick cannot see (eido), understand, what he is saying. It is as if Nick is deaf or dead. That is without question in John 3. Jesus later says the same thing to other Jews. And offended that he is calling them deaf and dumb, they leave. But, not Nicodemus. He becomes a secret disciple. The question that must be answered is was there some inherent good in Nicodemus that did not exist in the others? Jesus' statements say clearly, no. They were all merely men. It always comes around to this. If it is in man to receive/accept (lambano) without regeneration, it is an ability inherent in man, and not a gift, not a new birth and the abilities that come with it. And, if that work is not accomplished by a gift given though the finished work of Christ's righteous sacrifice, an alien righteousness imputed to man, it is a rejection of Him. So Jesus said.

Terry Rayburn said...

Todd,

Out of time and out the door right now. Will be responding more tonight, Lord willing.

Meanwhile...

You wrote,

"No Terry. That is where you are seriously mistaken. Christ does not say one cannot "see" the Kingdom of God, He says one cannot 'enter' into it, unless he is born again."

What? What translation are you using?

NASB: "...unless one is born again he cannot *see* the kingdom of God." - John 3:3

NKJV: "...unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." - John 3:3

(Of course vs. 5 uses "enter")

Later,
Terry

Todd said...

S.T.

I've been though this all before.

*I don't have to reword anything to get it to mean what I'm saying.

The way John 1:13 stands, 'recieved' him is simply clarifying 'believe' in him. Recieved is in the past tense because John is talking about when "He was in the world".

*You've messed up Eph. 2:8. According to the way "that" is constructed in the Greek proves that it refers back to "grace" and not to "faith".

*The Lord told us of the many in Israel who had been hardened and "would not hear His word". It's no mystery as to who they were or how that worked. He's always talking to the Jews many of whom He already told us had been hardened.

*You've been taught to read all sorts of things into the "wind".

*[If it is in man to receive/accept (lambano) without regeneration, it is an ability inherent in man, and not a gift,]

You can show me nowhere in the bible that says this.

*S.T., I see what your training has been, but in my mind it appears as nothing more than indoctrination or something. Why would it not? Where are the unambiguous statements of scriptural support for what you're saying?

Do you enjoy this debating over and over, and then over and over having your claims clearly being shown as deficient of scriptural backing. Please don't make me go through this.

If you would like to do something relevant then address the points in my reply to Terry. Or some of the points I laid on Steve.

Thanks,
Todd

Todd said...

Terry,

I see that. You're not entirely wrong as I said. I use the NASB. Let me try and make some sense of my view later on. Thanks. I use the NASB.

Mitch said...

I always thought that the way “that” is construed in Greek it proves that it refers back to the whole salvation package; meaning that the whole thing (including grace & faith) are gifts from God. Otherwise why does one believe and another does not?

Todd said...

Terry,

In response to your following comment:

Terry:["4. The whole context is one of a person's inability. He can't even "see" the Kingdom of God, let alone believe in its King, until he is born again."]

Wherein you say that one can't believe until he's reborn.

I said something that for whatever reason made no sense. Let me rephrase the middle part from:

No Terry. That is where you are seriously mistaken. Christ does not say one cannot "see" the Kingdom of God, He says one cannot 'enter' into it, unless he is born again.

To:

No Terry. That is where you are seriously mistaken. Christ does not say one cannot "believe" in the kingdom of God unless he is born again, He says one cannot 'enter' into it, unless he is born again.

The rest of my comment remains the same.

Thanks,
Todd

Todd said...

Mitch,
The whole "salvation package" is "by grace through faith". The gift by grace is Christ, the One who saves.

Todd

Mitch said...

So Todd,

What makes one man different than another? Why does one believe and the other does not?

It seems that you are saying that the difference lies with the person. So one is smarter/poorer/dumber/humbler/etc.

Just to be sure is that what you mean?

Todd said...

Mitch,
I ask the same question occassionally. I don't konw. I'm not necessarily saying that one is "smarter/poorer/dumber/humbler/etc." But I don't know why. That's the short answer. Let me think about a longer one that folks here might find fairly thought provoking (scriptural).

Todd

Todd said...

Mitch,
The obvious answer to me is that everyone is lied to, decieved and tempted by the world, the flesh and the devil. But I know alot of folks here think there's a specific teaching of 'election' from scripture that explains that better. I don't think there is a specific definition of election given by scripture. I've just always thought of God's command to believe as a sort of God's 'culling out' process. Separating hearts that make it through to belief from those that don't. I've never seen any reason to think beyond the answer at top of this comment, which is an answer clearly and directly given by scripture.

Thanks,
Todd

Mitch said...

Todd,

Would you say that you are more in-line with Pelagianism than say Arminianism?

Terry Rayburn said...

Todd,

Having had this discussion many times over the years, I've seen that it usually becomes a mere "war of verses".

And that is the case here.

Until you "see" God in His awesome sovereignty and power, as being totally able to save anyone He has chosen to, without depending on the "will" of puny man...

...until you've renounced man's power over God's ability to save, because you see God high and lifted up, and His will as unassailable...

...all the verses in the world will merely bounce off of you.

I say this by much experience, and encourage you to spend more time praying about it than arguing about it.

I've seen MANY free-will believers such as yourself have their hearts and minds opened to the beautiful sovereignty of God regarding "free will" vs. "regeneration". Even after arguing all the verses that you have.

But I can also honestly say that I've never seen ANYONE who, after "seeing" this sovereignty and rejoicing in it, turn around and renounce it. (I'm sure there probably are some, but they must be a very tiny minority).

I urge you to stop arguing, brother, and instead pray and think. Meditate on a simple question such as, "Could a mere man really prevent the salvation of the Almighty Creator if He wanted to save such a man?" Then answer that question from Scripture alone.

You need a Biblical "philosophy" (emphasis on Biblical) of the mightiness of the Lord, not more "verse wars".

Blessings,
Terry

Todd said...

Terry,

Terry:Having had this discussion many times over the years, I've seen that it usually becomes a mere "war of verses".

And that is the case here.


I don't think I turned it into a war of verses. I haven't put forth one single verse. You came into the discussion using a verse in a way that I had some questions about. And to argue with me presumably. I very tamely asked you to support what you were saying. Then I responded to your comment. Not being particularly argumentative.

And now you're sermonizing at me and accusing me and demeaning me. Yes, for asking some tough questions.

You should have never jumped in with that caliber of information Terry. Now you're flailing around hurtfully trying to get out.

You are obviously sold on this doctrine but yet can't sell it from scripture.

Your last comment is thoroughly intemperate, insulting and exasperated towards me. Way to go.

Your on a high horse but it's not scriptures high horse. Sorry.

Good luck. I can't tell you how gut-wrenching it is when people like you that should know better demean themselves and end a discussion this way.

Strong Tower said...

Okay Todd, just repent.

Todd said...

S.T.
Can you explain what you mean?

Todd said...

S.T.
Why don't you just sit there and throw child-like insults while I work on my final observations about those views in this post for which the author invited public interaction.

Todd said...

By the way Mitch,(I saw your comment)

Would you say that you are more in-line with Pelagianism than say Arminianism?

I'm far enough out-of-line with each and I'm afraid to even know which one I'm closer in-line with. Although I don't think I'll ask a Calvinist because they would be already one committing the error of calling themselves after Calvin, just as some did originally by calling themselves after their favorite disciple or apostle of their own time...Apollos, Cephas, etc. No difference. For some, it's Calvinism to the exclusion of the pure words of Jesus Christ.

"Popular" theology has always been in a world all it's own. Each branch has effectively disproved the rest. The flesh has taken over in those areas. Just look at Terry harp at me from his flesh only giving general, and to me incidental, mention to God's actual word. Pitying me and making me a second-class citizen for my straightforward and fully understandable usage of God's word. What doesn't Terry get? I'm not here to be persuaded with man's words but God's. Towards the goal that I can persuade the next unbeliever not with man's words but with God's words. Not with man's words speaking to my flesh as certain controversial doctrines mentioned here are put forth, but God's words speaking to my spirit. God's word tells us that one can have a lot of learning and not a lot of understanding. I think that's what you have when you have bright men with lots of learning, quite successfully disproving each other theologically, demeaning each other, and for the most part unable to communicate.

Hey, just my thoughts Mitch. Maybe close, maybe not. I've got a few more and then I'll consider it the end of some time earnestly spent examining a specific controversy within the body of Christ. Since Christ disapproves of controversy I'd like to attempt to get it right.

Todd said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Todd said...

Steve,

You posted your views, which are controversial within the body of Christ, and then asked for interaction. I haven't seen much of you. I imagine you pondering what I've said, finding my concerns mildly stimulating and somewhat valid, irritating, and taking them for what they are.

One unrelated concern that now plagues me is, why has my seeking to be corrected in my understanding of specific bible passages been met with either silence, or emotionally based accusations? What may have been helpful is to have been shown perhaps where my flesh has taken over from my ordinary spiritual abilities to appraise spiritual things? Shwon not with what may be considered to be platitudes, but with God's very persuasive Word itself.

Here's where I'm at with your views:

**They cause controversy when confronted with plain scripture.

**They inevitably result in division. In fact, it seems inevitably in quarrels. Even if quarrels that are occassionally side-stepped through the trustworthy use of the power of the Spirit.

**They distort and conflict with the plain renderings of scripture.

**They are *strange*.

All of these things are cautioned against as being indicators of unsound doctrine.

Now what about this list of indicators that your/Reformed view resembles? Should I give a brief example of what I mean by each one? I cetainly should. But there's been no one here yet either willing or able - one or the other - to carry on a conversation so far. So I'm just going to save myself some time there for the present.

When you come around these places, reformed blogs such as these, non-reformed are attended to as not being able to see the sovereignty of God through the love of their own flesh. That would be attending to them arrogantly. I don't care how you slice it, it's arrogance. And an arrogance like that must be backed up by the very unambiguous words of God or else it's being backed up only by arrogant zealous flesh. There is nothing inherently impressive about zealousness, it's everywhere, and in all walks of life. The only kind of zealousness we care about needs to come from the power of God, which comes to us through the Spiritual use of the whole Word of God. The bottom line is that, when you give counsel on what the Word of God contains, then it has to be expressly there in the Word of God, or else you're guessing, like all the rest who you are trying to correct, or condemn. What's so hard to understand about that? Beware that you don't take some gray area like 'election', over-simplify it, and fill in the empty places according to your own desire, and then lord it over others. Call it 'God honoring', but if scripture doesn't say it squarely, then your making something up.

The gift of grace to us is the provision of Christ and the mercy, sonship and salvation through Him. Yes, if you're brilliant like Calvin and a few others, then you can concoct, innocently probably, that faith is of grace and not of ourselves. But they change the meaning from what was writen. Which I proved to S.T. after his using it a few comments ago.

Grace is the gift of Christ to us. Grace touches us in the form of being offered Christ through our faith.

The effectual call of God is Christ. Your enabling, regenerative work of the Spirit prior to faith is a complete no-show in scripture. Men are drawn to God, and enabled by God, through Christ and the Word. Beholding the Son of God or the written Word of God and the regenerative work of God's Word is upon the soul of a man. Christ is man's knowledge and wisdom, and instructs his soul with the Truth. There is no invisible regenerative force mentioned in scripture prior to the indwelling of the Spirit upon belief. We can look at what is written and see the grace of God to us in scripture is what Christ brings.

We must have faith. Faith by definition is an act of ones will. The ability to have faith is created by and freely given by God. It's all His doing. All under the command of His sovereignty.

My flesh and my spirit is in much greater awe of a God who did not for some odd reason, withhold from us, after being made in His image, the trait of a *will* wherby we can chose either to listen to His revelation to us and obey Him, through His Son, or not listen unto separation and eternal punishment.

We know very little about the dynamics of election; only that there is an elective process going on. It is not explained to us and we are not asked to understand it or to explain it ourselves. You have a scheme of 'election' not objectively seen in scripture, even by some of the most divinely inspired, but one rather that some church fathers have come to persuade each other of through time. You’ve presumptuously heralded it ‘boldly and confidently’ as the rightful and most possible, God-honoring system of truth. And heralded others, who are trying to honor God not with their imaginations but with their deeds, by their honoring the plain and clear language of scripture, as being less spiritually discerning.

It seems to me that you have a higher regard for comparing scripture with other bad christians, and other good chritians, moreso than you do for comparing it with other scripture.
Your posts are full of contrived contests, and real contests, between other branches of chrtianity and theology. There’s nothing wrong with that in itself, but you passed on the opportunity
here to interact as an individual apart from your Calvinist instruction manual. Many of the church father’s are deadlocked on certain issues, and from that one would think we would have to look for ways not perpetuate that breakdown. For instance, surely the mainstream ecumenical movement is not advancing the true unity of the Spirit of Christ. But then people walking around with their adamant denominational or theological banners are not even performing as well in that area.

One step in the right direction may be for many of us to acknowledge the pure intellectual gratification we indulge in under the guise of seeking God's truth. Let's call it what it is many times. This theology game is gratifying in many ways. And also very deceptive. What of it is flesh and what of it is Spirit? To focus or zero in on our theological differences and address them in simple spiritual terms is rare. Many of the church father's have condoned disagreement and I don't have to tell you what the bible says about disagreement. No, we'll never be perfect in that area but many of us are perfectly apathetic to that cannon of scripture.

These things all need to go on record here alongside your own views in my opinion.

During these discussions, many times brethren are talking to each other like they're from different religions. All of the ridiculous talk of not understanding God's sovereignty well enough. The talk of different gospels. The stomping off mad with feelings hurt. There's something ghastly about that. And your a part of that. And I'll be a part of it too. But I'm going to be a part that refuses to get comfortable with it.

In order to sell your ideas here I have to have an answer for people like myself who show up with a mindset that they want to hear things stated unambiguously from scripture.

You're the leader here in your house. Step up and deal with some of these concerns when they arrive at your doorstep.

Here you've got brothers offending brothers, and brothers not feeling that they need to be accountable for things they have said here. Brothers who say things they can't defend. People who you can't be sure can tell the difference between a theology book and a bible. It's a theological brotherhood here where some Christian brothers won't be respected unless they attach to the right narrow spokesman for their doctrine.

The beauty of a biblical perspective on 'God's sovereignty' that is less defining than the Reformed perspective is that it's less limiting to God. And by claiming only scripturally reliable knowledge of how God enacts His sovereignty, He is allowed to be capable of much more, merely by not limiting Him through subjective guesswork.

It may be that in your speculation tainted theological world, perspectives are a free-for-all.

Certainly bears mentioning.

Have any interesting thoughts to add?

Todd said...

What a luxury to come back the next day with a little more time and clean this thing up a little. Thanks.

Only Look said...

Todd,

Terry and Michele are tremendous blessings. They are spirit filled believers. I do not recognize these things you are saying about him. I dont recognize that Steve was being inconsiderate. His tone seemed very cordial. I agree with your comment about us not necessarily needing the Church Fathers but the Scripture alone, but these brethren are my friends and they have a dear heart for the Lord. The Sovereignty of God is a wonderful thing and I agree with Terry that the wind is representitive of the Spirit of God moving and quickening our hearts setting our gaze to Calvary. It is unfortunate that things turn out this way. I have missunderstood Steve in the past getting frustrated but since that time I discovered that the Lord was also working in my life and resting my soul in His sovereignty that I at times have wrestled with. Our souls our made glad when we rest in His Sovereignty. He is a blessed redeemer and saves us by grace and through grace teaches us that His sovereignty is just as precious as His grace is.

Grace upon grace,

Brian

Todd said...

Brian,
I appreciate your saying these things very much.

I can see where I've suggested Steve was being inconsiderate and while I believe by that I was hoping to just provoke him strongly to consider a few 'tough to swallow' ideas which I was bringing up, and maybe get an opposing view, and I'll gladly concede that I'm forcing some of those things a little too much.

And I agree, if I didn't see that they have devotion filled hearts I wouldn't be asking so much of them in the way of trying their patience by asking them to consider all these practically irrelevant things I'm bringing up. But this is me and these things tear at my heart. You've seen it since the time we met several years ago when we were briefly opposing each other. Neither one of us think our time is well spent generally disputing over differences with brothers in the Lord but the fact remains, I believe, that there is much Spirit grieving lack of agreement concerning certain important basic principles within the host of believer's who hope to comprise the One mind of Christ in a way that's pleasing to Him. I think it's important that we don't lose sight of that fact. I also think there is a lot to be gained for Christ by earnestly and clearmindedly discussing our theological disagreements with one another with the end goal of 'agreement' in mind.

As far as my discussion with Terry, I truly need help with the things he said about the "wind". Either it means 'spirit' or 'Spirit'. What significance is there in the way it is written? It seems to me there is significance to it's meaning in the way it is written. This was the first time I'd seen it discussed that way and those things can be a little surprising in the moment.

But my blunder did not help the moment either. Just a matter of thinking one thing and writing something else. But then folks have the right not to have their time wasted by my mistakes. The hasty words that followed by both speak for themselves. My point here is that I hope that I'm willing to be wrong but it's also nice to be not just told, but shown. I'm not here to be right, I'm here to learn something I don't know yet. No one here is under any obligation to teach me. And my ineffectiveness here had a negative impact on people I care about.

I truly appreciate your adding your perspective Brian. I certainly will take those things to heart. I apologize for any recklessness or carelessness. And I hope I can count on you anytime you see where I can use some guidance.

Much brotherly love,
Todd

Only Look said...

Your a blessing Todd. Sometimes these truths do often come off as arbitrary and dry in nature and perhaps that is why those who are discussing this subject may seem this way at times, but I am at peace knowing that God initiates salvation and am very thankful that he does not leave us to our own devices.

Let me give you an example of how dispensationalism can come off as seeming arbitrary. Chafer argues that the Kingdom offer to Israel is not disengenuous by reason of the command given to Adam and the failure thereof. The dispensationalist states that God already planned to go to the cross and offered the messianic kingdom to Israel knowing they would reject it. This seems arbitrary but Christ weeps and there is an element of mystery. In the same light, God is not being disengenuous in offering us eternal life through His son knowing that if left to our own devices we would reject it everytime and that it takes the quikening hand of God to awaken us and reveal His Son in us by His own good pleasure.

I state this because in the same way I see people often blasting dispensationalist for a disengenous offer, I see the believer in election also getting plastered at times for God being disengenous, but clearly the Bible states that the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit. In the same way Israel rejected the Messianic Kingdom so does Humanity reject Christ as there Saviour unless their eyes and ears are opened by the Spirit of God. When further studied and reasoned over as dispensationalism is often reasoned over then one will see a similar vein in that God is moving according to His plan and good pleasure and working salvation in the only way possible within His holiness and glory. If he sacrifices that then he is not making known His love as it is to be made known.

BTW...still studying dispensationalism right now. It is fascinating to look into the complex weaving of God's genius and see all the while He is truly a God of compassion who cannot bear to leave man in their sinful state and so He must judge some to wake others up to the cross.

President Bush once almost had to make a decision to shoot one of those planes out of the sky by a nearby f-14 tomcat in order to save other lives. Of course we know that He judged His son at Calvary, yet He still has to kill in order to wake a stiff necked generation to the wonders of His grace. It is unfortunately so and His thoughts are not ours.

Grace upon grace,

Brian

Mark P. said...

I was researching this subject, and I noticed that Ephesians 2:8 was mentioned as "that" referring back to "grace" and not to "faith." This is wrong.

"8For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

9Not of works, lest any man should boast."

Notice that the phrase "that not of yourselves" stands in contrast to the preceding: "by grace are ye saved through faith." The faith and the grace are INSEPERABLE. Grace operates by faith, and the operation of faith can only be attained by God's grace.

There are two ways of viewing this operation: monergistically, or synergistically. But either way, you cannot state that the "that" only refers to "grace." It refers to BOTH "grace" and "faith."

Another point I'd like to make is that of the origination of faith. Romans 10:17 says that faith comes from hearing/reading God's Word. In other words, it is not a product of man.

One of you asked how it could be that one man was immediately illuminated and accepted Christ's salvation, whereas another man sat "dumb" in the pew. Was it because of his being "dumber/stubboner" etc?

Both "hear" God's Word, but only one responds. If it is man's faith, then salvation is not a gift from God, because Ephesians 2:8&9 assures us that the process ("by grace through faith") is not from within us, but rather a GIFT from God.

The only logical answer is that of "election." Romans 9 answers that extremely well.

Thanks for letting me share.

Mark

Michael Chardavoyne said...

How do I contact you? Do you have an email? Email me at mwchardavoyne@gmail.com