Saturday, October 18, 2008

THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD
...salvation is not your choice - it is His

For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness,
but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
-1 Corinthians 1:18


One of the damnable lies that has crept into evangelicalism over the last fifty years (via a return to Finneyism) is that salvation is the result of your free will enacted by your own volition to decide to follow Jesus Christ so that you can gain eternal life. Rubbish! Salvation is the result of His sovereign election of His own from all eternity past in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 1:9; Titus 1:1-2). Salvation is not the result of you mumbling some little sinners prayer, walking an aisle, raising a hand, or signing a decision card. "The only thing," as Jonathan Edwards has said, "that you bring to your salvation is the sin that makes it necessary."

So read the following words by brother C.H. Spurgeon and consider the greatness of your salvation - that it is all of grace, all of God, all of Christ Jesus the Lord, all of the regenerating ministry of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:4-7). Any boasting in and of ourselves is excluded; any attribution in the smallest degree to man's free will is a gospel worthy of the dung hill (Roms. 3:21-31; Phil. 3:1-12). All our boasting and glory is in the Lord Jesus Christ alone (1 Cor. 1:27-31)!

Amen?

We stand in grace,
Steve

"I feel persuaded that false doctrine, inasmuch as it touches God's sovereignty, is always an object of divine jealousy. Let me indicate especially the doctrines of free-will. I know there are some good men who hold and preach them, but I am persuaded that the Lord must be grieved with their doctrine though he forgives them their sin of ignorance. Free-will doctrine—what does it? It magnifies man into God; it declares God's purposes a nullity, since they cannot be carried out unless men are willing. It makes God's will a waiting servant to the will of man, and the whole covenant of grace dependent upon human action. Denying election on the ground of injustice it holds God to be a debtor to sinners, so that if he gives grace to one he is bound to do so to all. It teaches that the blood of Christ was shed equally for all men and since some are lost, this doctrine ascribes the difference to man's own will, thus making the atonement itself a powerless thing until the will of man gives it efficacy. Those sentiments dilute the scriptural description of man's depravity, and by imputing strength to fallen humanity, rob the Spirit of the glory of his effectual grace: this theory says in effect that it is of him that willeth, and of him that runneth, and not of God that showeth mercy.

Any doctrine, my brethren, which stands in opposition to this truth—"I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy," provokes God's jealousy. I often tremble in this pulpit lest I should utter anything which should oppose the sovereignty of my God; and though you know I am not ashamed to preach the responsibility of man to God—if God be a sovereign, man must be bound to obey him—on the other hand, I am equally bold to preach that God has a right to do what he wills with his own, that he giveth no account of his matters and none may stay his hand, or say unto him, "What doest thou?" I believe that the free-will heresy assails the sovereignty of God, and mars the glory of his dominion. In all faithfulness, mingled with sorrow, I persuade you who have been deluded by it, to see well to your ways and receive the truth which sets God on high, and lays the creature in the dust." — C. H. Spurgeon

28 comments:

donsands said...

"..it is of him that willeth, and of him that runneth, and not of God that showeth mercy."

Pastor Spurgeon is the best.

Thanks for sharing this edifying post.

My Arminian friends just can not accept that God can have mercy on whom He wants, but that he is longing to have mercy on everyone, but can't violate their free will.

And yet they will contend, and I believe them, that they believe with all their hearts that it's 100% grace, and God receives 100% the glory for our salvation.
We simply believe and receive the gospel in our own faith, but this is not a work, and this has no goodness to it, it is simply neutral ground.
That's their theology on saving mercy, basically.

Ed Trefzger said...

Amen! As one of our very dear elders reminded us at our men's breakfast today, no matter how any believe salvation works, we're all saved the same way, by His gift of sovereign grace through faith.

I love our non-Reformed brothers and sisters in Christ and pray they'll come to change their theology -- not so I can prove I'm right, but so that they can see Christ in all His glory and live a life liberated in the joy and peace that comes from knowing all is in God's dominion.

gigantor1231 said...

S.J.

I am not reformed, I am not Calvinist but I do read my Bible and find that this truth is in it;
He has saved me completely and it is He that will keep me completely! What is left for me to do but love Him. This is truly the Grace of God!!

wisesower said...

"The only thing," as Jonathan Edwards has said, "that you bring to your salvation is the sin that makes it necessary." That is a great quote from Jonathan Edwards. Where is it from?

Rick Morgan said...

2  Because if the word which came through the angels was fixed, and in the past every evil act against God's orders was given its full punishment;
3  What will come on us, if we do not give our minds to such a great salvation? a salvation of which our fathers first had knowledge through the words of the Lord, and which was made certain to us by
those to whom his words came;
Hebrews 2

3  This is good and pleasing in the eyes of God our Saviour;
4  Whose desire is that all men may have salvation and come to the knowledge of what is true.
5  For there is one God and one peacemaker between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,
6  Who gave himself as an offering for all; witness of which was to be given at the right time;
1 Timothy 2

I contend that faith is a gift from God, and God made salvation possible for us by Christ alone and we don't do anything to earn it BUT he is not a bully each person must accept or reject this "great salvation"

For God so loved the world that "whosoever"

Detoured By Travel said...

Steve –

I have enjoyed this blog and sharing and building my faith here. But like Gig, I am neither reformed nor Calvinist. I believe that:

(1) He alone is God. He is holy.
(2) He is the creator of men. He is sovereign and He answers to no man.
(3) Man is a sinner. Nothing that any man can do will change his status as a lost sinner.
(4) God loves all men equally. God is not willing that ANY man should perish, but wishes that all would come to eternal life with Him. But an eternal life with Him is simply not possible for men because of their sinful state.
(5) But because of His great love for men, He made for them a way of escape and reconciliation. He gave His only Son Jesus Christ to be the sacrifice for the sins of all men, not just for those who believe on Him. Christ died once for all. This way of escape is nothing less than a gift from God made available to all men through His grace and mercy.
(6) This gift may be received by that subset of men who come to recognize their sinful, separated state and who wish to be restored back to God. If this subset of men repents of their sin, trusts in the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ alone as payment for their sin, and believes that God has raised Christ from the dead they can be saved.
(7) The act of repentance and the act of belief are acts of the will of this subset of men. It is a choice.

So getting to the bottom line (I am an accountant, after all) – do I believe that God can choose who He saves and who He doesn't? Yes. Do I believe that He knows what subset of men will be saved and those who are outside of this subset? Yes. Do I believe that I don’t deserve this gift of salvation that comes to me solely by the grace of God? Yes. Do I believe that I’ve done anything to deserve this gift of salvation? No. Do I believe that God has predestined those outside of the subset for eternal separation from Him (hell)? No. Do I believe that those who fall outside the subset will fall outside because they chose to reject God's Son? Yes.

If what I believe is considered to be heresy by some here…I’m content to let the Judge of all the earth decide between us in eternity. As for me, my faith is in Christ alone. And may I every day I be thankful for His gift to me…and may I never take for granted the price He paid.

May God be glorified in all we say and do…and may He lead us to love one another even as He loved us.

littlegal_66 said...

The longer I live and the more I observe in this world & the Church in general, the more convinced I become that, left to our own sinful nature, the only choice we'd make as humans would be to live life any way that struck our fancy, whether it be glorifying to God or not, then, of course, at the end of our lives, at that point we'd all then want to "choose" Heaven. The only ability we have in ourselves as natural-born sinners is the ability to keep on sinning.

Question: What percentage of souls who reach Heaven will be Reformed when they arrive there?

Answer: 100%. :-)
(That was kind of a take-off on one of Mr. Camp's lines).

Carla said...

"I believe that the free-will heresy assails the sovereignty of God, and mars the glory of his dominion. In all faithfulness, mingled with sorrow, I persuade you who have been deluded by it, to see well to your ways and receive the truth which sets God on high, and lays the creature in the dust."

I couldn't agree more, and couldn't have said it better. So I will simply amen your words Steve, and Spurgeon's as well.

Robin said...

In Acts 2, Peter is telling the crowd how they can be saved. He tells them:
"39The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call."(NIV)
Then it says that those that accepted his message were baptized. OK, so am I correct in understanding that those that accepted the message had been seeking the truth,the holy spirit had been working in their life to bring them to that point of understanding, and then by their own words they finally "agreed with God" and were saved? Without our own words to God, we cannot be saved, correct? (Romans 10:9-10)I think I am where detoured by travel is when he talks about those outside the "subset" etc. So could those "whom God would call" be those who are teachable? (Peter was speaking to the whole crowd.)I want to understand this...please help!

gigantor1231 said...

Robin

In short Eph. 2: 8,9 States that we are saved by grace through faith, it is a gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast.
Faith is the gift and it is expressed in words, as well as deeds, however neither the words nor the faith are what are accounted to us as righteousness, it is all of grace through faith and Romans 10 states that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. It is His words and fully of His will that any man is saved.

conservativewarrior said...

detoured by travel, I have a couple of questions for you.

If God is sovereign and answers to no man, why are men the ones controlling salvation by their own free will?

If Jesus blood paid the price of all sins, why does God still send people to hell? Think about it. It would be unjust for God to send someone to hell if his sins had been paid for.

Lastly, how can men in their fallen state ever choose God? Why would they? Read Romans 3:10-18 and meditate on it.

Don’t get me wrong─this topic is not one to just intellectually debate─we are talking about the eternal salvation of men─this is huge and infinitely important. It’s not something to argue about flippantly. "search the Scriptures to see if these things are so"

Mr. Camp,
Great post as usual! I am always awed when I think of salvation and the doctrine of predestination. It’s so absolutely amazing!!!

Robin said...

I agree, that faith is a gift, and we cannot "earn" our salvation by any good works that we do. But we have to accept the gift in order to be saved, and the gift is offered to all men but not all will accept and be saved, correct? (Jesus stands at the door and knocks, we have to open the door ourselves.) Isn't the fact that we can accept or reject Christ where the "free will" comes in? (The concept of accepting or rejecting is in the Bible.)If there is no free-will involved at all, how would He view our love for Him?

Alice said...

The Bible says the Father draws us to Himself. He changes the heart of stone into a heart of flesh. The gift of salvation is His.

The Bible also says that Joshua stood on a hill and shouted to the people, "Choose this day whom you will serve."

The Father draws and gives. I also have to make choices.

2 Peter says there are things that are hard to understand. I'm content to let this be one of those things, rejoicing in my salvation and praying for all my loved ones who don't know Him to come to faith in Christ.

Carla said...

Robin,

in the sidebar here you'll notice a list of "Blogs Worth Reading". (I love this feature on blogs).

Just a little while ago a post went up there from Reformation Theology called Regeneration in the ESV Study Bible. I think this post and the Scripture references would benefit you a great deal in coming to terms with your questions on free will & regeneration.

gigantor1231 said...

Robin

No, we do not need to accept the gift, He is sovereign and gives us the gift.

John 15: 16, 17

16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

As far as free will is concerned and salvation, there is no salvation apart from the will of God. John 6: 44 says that "no one can come to Me (Jesus) unless the Father draws him". So, the will is totally subject to the sovereign will of God the Father, and NO MAN can come to Him of his own accord because he has to be drawn by God! To bolster this even more, those that are apart from Christ are completely dead, blind etc... and since they are in this separated state they can do nothing, the free will of man is subject to the nature of man, the flesh, because he is separated from God. The only thing man can do apart from Christ is choose what type of evil to do because all that he does is evil, man is totally and utterly dead in every respect.

John 15: 3-6

3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.

While our selfish minds tell us that we have some kind of work in salvation the fact is that it is Christ who does it all. There is nothing that we do that He is obligated to respond to, He owes us nothing no matter what the work is and even the work of a decision will not attain salvation for the lost sinner! He is the one that controls life and death, it is not man and it is not the devil. Apart from him, apart from his will we can do nothing worthy of salvation and certainly nothing worthy of Him!
From the O.T. through the N.T. the word of God is rife with His words stating that He works His own salvation by His arm alone, even Israel was saved by Him alone and they did nothing to gain the salvation of the nation. Christ saved them and us because it was His good pleasure! He has done this because He is God and He loves us and He chooses to do so.

josephmcbee said...

Steve: I grew up in a theologically Arminian church and "made a choice" when I was nine to be saved. I spent from that time until I was 22 genuinely trying with all my might to serve and please God, only to find myself beset by sin again and again.

By the time I was in Bible college studying to be a pastor I realized that I had no idea who God was and did not sense His presence at all in my life. Everything I ever believed came crashing down around my ears.

Then, on April 19, 1992, I sat in my dorm room and asked God to "rend the veil of my heart" as described in A.W. Tozer's book THE PURSUIT OF GOD. At that moment my eyes were opened and I saw with a true clarity, that only God can grant, what a wretched, lost, miserable sinner I truly was and I threw myself on my face crying out to my God for fogiveness and salvation.

I was radically, completely, and forever changed that night and I no more could have chosen that experience than I could choose to be born with brown eyes or who my parents would be. My God called to me, drew me to Himself, opened my eyes to the true condition of my heart and rescued me because it pleased Him to do so.

I will spend this life and all of eternity for His glory as a response to the grace and love He has so mercifully shown to me.

Strong Tower said...

If there is no free-will involved at all, how would He view our love for Him?

How does the Father view the love of his Son?

For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. John 6:38

J. K. Jones said...

Steve,

I know that this may seem Un-Calvinist, but I assure you it is not.

Men do choose to accept Christ of their own free will. It is a conscious choice on their part.

There is nothing outside an individual that keeps him / her from repenting and believing the gospel. The choice to reject Christ is a free choice, in that nothing outside a person’s will has caused them to reject Him. It is their choice, and it is their fault. This guards us against the high / hyper – Calvinist view that men cannot be held responsible to chose Christ because they cannot. A person can choose to accept Christ. In a sense, they have the ability.

In another sense, they do not have the ability. It’s not that they cannot receive Christ; it’s that they will not. The problem is not outside them; it is within. Regeneration does proceed faith, and God must give a man a new heart before that man will accept him, but God does not force people to reject Him. They want to do that on their own.

There is another aspect of this. I believe regeneration is a persuasive process. (Hear me out on this one.) God uses general revelation in nature, personal testimony and witness, and, above all, the Word of God plainly preached to persuade men to repent and believe over a period of time. This idea guards against the high / hyper Calvinist notion that we do not need to preach the gospel to all men. The very act of our preaching the Word of God is what God uses to change peoples hearts.

Lest I be accused of Armenianism here, I want to point out that it is not possible for God to fail to persuade a person He wants to persuade. Practically, He knew the person in question since the person was knit together in his mother’s womb; He controls all of the events in that person’s life through His providence; He is infinitely wise; He is infinitely beautiful; and, among other things, He is infinitely good. How could He fail to persuade? Philosophically, how can Almighty God fail in anything He tries?

Then why doesn’t God persuade all men? I don’t know, but He does not owe it to anyone to persuade them. If He does not move in their hearts, they are left with the consequences of rejecting the truth they have from nature, witness and Scripture.

We can freely offer the gospel to all men knowing full well that God will use that gospel to change some men’s hearts. This allows us to be bold. We can call men to account for their failure to repent and believe the gospel as God commands them to do. This allows us to be direct.

I know I am ‘splitting hairs’ and ‘nit picking’ on this one, but hairs are to be split and nits are to be picked. These things have practical implications. For reasoning along these lines from a professional theologian, please see “Physicians of Souls,” by Peter Masters. (Of course, I do not claim to speak for Masters, just my understanding of the implications of what he teaches.)

JK

SJ Camp said...

To All
It's hard for us creatures of God's good pleasure and sovereign electing love to give Him al the glory for our salvation isn't it?

That is part of the struggle here... Our flesh craves glory. Though before we come to know Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior we are utterly dead "in trespasses and sins" we still find a way to take some credit, some of the glory in our own salvation.

Grace strips us of any such boasting... I am so grateful it does. I am thankful that the Lord chose me before the foundation of the world - for I am not worthy at all of such love and mercy.

Steve

Strong Tower said...

JK- It is splitting hairs and too finely. Regeneration must precede the hearing according to John 3:16 and Jesus also said that the mystery of the kingdom cannot be understood except by those to whom it is given and says in conjunction with telling the disciples that others could not see or hear and understand and be healed. The persuasion that happened to the disciples happened because they were given ears to hear, that is they were regenerated, they are his sheep and hear his voice.

The position that you are advancing is in reality speaking of conversion and not regeneration. Regeneration precedes the understanding as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2. Many theologians don't necessarily separate these two and generally propose them as coextensive, but there is no way to undo the temporal order no matter how simultaneous the action. The Gospel is comprehened by the mind of Christ so that we might understand those things freely given to us. This was Jesus' sequence: unless they see and hear and are converted. Obviously the ability to see and hear precede the ability to embrace or receive, John 1:12-13. There is this too, regeneration is the act of the Spirit alone, and that which follows involves the individual. Yes, unregenerate man does reject the Gospel, but not because they understand it, the opposite is true much like the unfaithful servant's talent which was hidden. He did not rightly comprehend the nature of the Master.

It is still necessary to preach, for faith, that is the understanding of it, and its acceptance which produces repentance and trust come from the Word heard. This too protects against the Hyper-C position in that both preaching and repentance are necessary means for entrance into the kingdom; is only through repentance. Indeed, faith without works is dead.

Jesus said that one cannot see, unless, and then one cannot enter, unless. An interesting process of logical temporal order, the water, then the Blood. First, being born again, then hearing with understanding for that is what it means to "see", then entering into covenant. Entering the sheepfold requires the ability to hear with understanding the voice and to then enter through the flesh of Christ, that is the body and blood, the door.

The reality is that a new heart is created and then the law is written upon it. The same sequence is found in Ezekial, and mirrors the revelation of salvation that is embedded in the creation story of Adam who had to be made new with ears to hear before he could commune with God.

glip said...

Anybody want to have a go at reconciling the Calvinistic system of thought with Ezekiel 18:32?

SJ Camp said...

glip
There is not contradiction or conflict in that verse with Calvinism or Reformed theology.

God does not delight in the death of the wicked. But we do know that wicked people die and do so without the Lord Jesus in their sins.

There is no delight in that for they enter eternal perdition and God's wrathful punishment forever.

But we can contrast this with the words of the Psalmist when he says, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints." -Psalm 116:15

Steve

Strong Tower said...

Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.

It pays to pay attention to context. First things first is this passage is about the national sin of Israel. So the contrast is between the sin of the fathers, i.e. sinfilled Israel, and the individual. But take note, the requirements: one must be perfectly righteous, keeping the whole law without error. An impossibility. This final verse is not isolated then from the fact that all will perish for their own sins for no one keeps the law. Second notice that this Scripture requires a new heart and a new spirit. Contrast that with what Ezekial later reflects as the voice of the Lord saying that he and he alone can do that. It is the error of man to beleive that he can create and thus usurpt the throne of God. To the contrary, the Calvinistic system keeps God in his proper place, the Exalted Sovereign who alone creates the spirits and hearts of men.

God indeed is not a sadist taking pleasure in death. He is pleased to be the righteous judge and the prosecutor of his creation which he has concluded all under sin. The problem then is that God alone can do what Ezekial 18 requires. The idolatry of mens hearts is that they believe that they can do it on their own. God's desire is for men to repent and believe, but man's desire is by nature opposed to God's desire. The answer is given later in Ezekial, namely that God will take the stony heart out which opposes him and replace it with one that is in his own image. He then goes on to say that he will cause them to walk in his statutes and keep his commandments. This is the great divide between the Reformed view of grace and the Arminian view of grace. By grace, we hold that God makes new in his image and that is why our hearts willing follow. The Arminian only believes that God gives assistance and leaves man to the depravity of his nature to decide his fate. The problem being, as Ezekial 18 makes clear, is that it takes love from a pure heart and not a mixed cup to please the Lord.

glip said...

Thanks Steve..

Well, if someone dies without Jesus in their sins did that person reject anything?

SJ Camp said...

glip
Well, if someone dies without Jesus in their sins did that person reject anything?

Yes.
Roms. 1:18-23

glip said...

I'm with 'detoured', above, when it was said: "Do I believe that those who fall outside the subset will fall outside because they chose to reject God's Son? Yes."

This is where "Calvinism" runs into some issues. It actually makes a great deal of sense to me as a believer. (Though I would never ever call myself a "Calvinist". I am a Christian, and if the Cross is my basis, and the Word which was given is my foundation, then why would I want to call myself anything but that?)

When looked at from the other side it just doesnt seem to add up and it can absolutely screw with your mind if you think about it too much. Those who die without Christ - did they not have a say in deciding that? In other words, if grace irresistably draws one in to belief, what drives one to rejection? Does Calvinism really say its God's will that does this? (I thought He doesnt want anyone to perish.) If so, the act of rejection becomes meaningless. Ok so they just havent been, nor were they ever, effectively called? So they were damned to Hell without them having any say in the matter? The conundrum of Calvinism.

I understand I really do. CS Lewis made some great illustrations in Mere Christianity I think it was..how the Lord exists outside of time and space - as we know it - and so He sees life in its entirety all in one glimpse - - e.g. he sees the year 440 BC at exactly the same time as he sees the year 2008. The book of Life is complete already in His eyes, though we characters in the book have to progess along the timeline of and live out the plot written into the book, page by page. I love that illustration. God's awesome grace and His plan, and all the talk about predestination and elect and all that makes total, undeniable sense when viewed through the lens of the Lord. I mean yeah its all biblical. Its just that when it comes to the people that wind up rejecting the Gospel, this thing we call "Calvinism" kinda hits a brick wall.

This has been eating away at me all day, hehe. I do thank God for His grace upon my life, that He chose me because He does not want me to die, and that I did nothing to warrant that apart from the faith that He gave me thru his death and resurrection. I dont believe the Gospel because its true..rather, the Gospel is true therefore I believe it.

J. K. Jones said...

Strong Tower,

“…there is no way to undo the temporal order no matter how simultaneous the action… the ability to see and hear precede the ability to embrace or receive…

Regeneration precedes faith logically, not temporally. It is logically necessary to be born again by the Holy Spirit to see the kingdom of God. Regeneration and faith occur at the same time. Otherwise, you have a born again Christian who has no faith or a Christian with faith who is not born again.

“…unregenerate man does reject the Gospel, but not because they understand it…”

Agreed. Yet, the unregenerate man understands enough to be without excuse (Romans 1:19, 2:1).

Strong Tower said...

for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb


JK said: "Regeneration precedes faith logically, not temporally. It is logically necessary to be born again by the Holy Spirit to see the kingdom of God. Regeneration and faith occur at the same time. Otherwise, you have a born again Christian who has no faith..."

Even though John the Baptist is an exception and not the rule, the fact is that he was filled with the Holy Spirit in the womb. Regardless of how you want to think of it in this case it is without doubt that he was "born-again" before he had the understanding of faith. It is doubtless that before he reached the age of conceptual thought, he was "without faith" but regenerated. With Jesus, we must accept that he too was a real human child and not a monstrousity who from the womb was standing in faith. Indeed he was a man of faith as is demonstrated in Psalms 22. Yet, as a real human, he too would have developed as a normal child to a mature understanding before we could rightly say that he had faith. And without a doubt, he was the Holy One from conception forward, filled with the Spirit as was John.

In Jesus' dialogue with Nicodemus the formula is again repeated, born-again, then (in a temporal sense and a logical sense) one understands. Without the understanding faith is not engaged. Typically faith is recognized by three components, knowledge, conviction and trust. None of which are possible unless one first has the capacity necessary to them. Regeneration, therefore, not only logically, but temporally precedes the gift of faith. Faith, that is the understanding of it, comes from hearing and hearing by the word of God. Again, it is not merely logical but temporal. Hearing is in place before the word can be heard. In this phrase, hearing is the physical means. The knowledge of the faith is transferred by the preaching of the world. What precedes this is the faculty which must be in place before what is spoken can be heard. The word of God is not a magic talisman that creates by the vocalization of the human tongue. Jesus said the contrary. The Holy Spirit conceives and the flesh profits nothing, no one sees it coming or going, we know it because of what it has done. Jesus' example procedes upon the basis that Nicodemus should have understood the natural birth and the acquiring of the ability to hear as a natural progression, temporally, and in wonderment questions his acuity as a teacher of Israel. Again a temporality from the natural revelation to the Spiritual. It is first conception, then birth, then hearing, then understanding. The English word born is most often used in place of birth, but the English word comes from the meaning to carry. In other words, from the moment of conception one is born. What we know of the order of salvation is from observation, external appearances, of something Jesus said could not be seen. So what we have is the witness of coversion and not regeneration. Ergo, faith (that is the understanding) comes from hearing. The word preached works repentance and trust, not regeneration. Then, both logically and temporally, one is born-again (conceived) and then is converted (birthed) by the preaching of the word. Otherwise, you would have a person who has faith (that is trust) and does not understand what he has. As you said, an impossibility: a Christian with faith who is not born again

Paul says: "For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved." And as I said in reference to Ezekial, without a new heart that is impossible. The word sklerocardia in the Greek means hard heart. It has the import of meaning without spiritual discernment as is reflected in Romans 8:7-8 "For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God." But as 1 Corinthians 2 says we have been given the Mind of Christ so that we can understand. Again, what is reflected here is temporality not just logic. First must be the removal of the stony heart and the giving of a new one (regeneration), then the giving of the Spirit, before one is able the understand and respond. Understanding must precede conviction and trust. What we have then is a born-again person for whatever lenth of time, God knows, who, until they are converted by the word of Christ, are not believers, for they do not know what to believe in. There is simply no way around it. Regeneration invariably always precedes faith, both logically and temporally.

All that being said, I believe as Calvin demostrated, that there is more to "faith" than just understanding, conviction, and trust. Rather, I believe that Hebrews 11 points us in the direction of substance: hupostasis. To that point, some like Murray in speaking of redemption applied puts vital union at the end of his discussion of the ordo salutis but says, "Union with Christ is the central truth of the whole doctrine of salvation." Our new life is so mystically, intimately bound with his that the reality is he is our faith possessed. It is at the moment of conception, regeneration, that we are inextricably joined to Christ by his Spirit (Ezekial) which prompts all works coming forth from it like trust. As Murray states, union with Christ is not just a step along the way of salvation, it is all that salvation encompasses, from regeneraton, to understanding, conviction, repentance and trust, perseverence et cetera. In this case, it is fair to say, that no one who is regenerated is so without faith. Still, the understanding which must precede trust follows regeneration. And if by faith, you only intend to mean trust, then temporally, regeneration precedes it.

So, faith is far more than the reductionistic view of most evangelicals. It is not simply trust as I hear you saying.