Apologetics, Biblical Doctrines, Calvinism, Church history, Theology

Regeneration Precedes Faith

An Arminian Assaults Calvinism Continued…

Part V

The Speaker’s Statement.
The speaker correctly points out that Calvinist teach that regeneration must precede faith. The speaker believes that is putting “the cart before the horse.”

Response.
The Bible does teach that regeneration, a new spiritual life, must precede faith, for only those with spiritual life have the capacity to repent, believe, and receive God. Consider the Scriptural evidence that regeneration precedes faith.

If regeneration is a work of God, and not a work of man, or a synergism of God and man, then regeneration, of necessity precedes faith. He says to Nicodemus in John 3:3: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Then again in verses 5–7, Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’” “The must-ness of regeneration of which Jesus speaks is necessary for a person to see even the kingdom of God, let alone to enter it. We cannot exercise faith in a kingdom that we cannot enter apart from rebirth” (R. C. Sproul).

“And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live…Then you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD” (Ezekiel 37:14).

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive [quickened us] with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved” (Eph. 2:4-5).

“It is the Spirit who gives life [quickens]; the flesh is of no avail. 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).

You have been born anew, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God…”(1 Peter 1:23-25).

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God” (1 John 5:1).

Notice that we have been born of God, past tense, when we believe. It is BECAUSE we have been born of God we can believe!

The Speaker’s Statement.
The speaker turned to and read Galatians 3:7 to prove that regeneration does not precede faith. Galatians 3:26 says, “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.”

Response.
Several questions arise. “What is the origin of the faith that makes us children of God?” “Is it a natural faith?” Or, “Is the faith that saves a supernatural faith given by the Spirit, who causes us to be born again?” “Is salvation a work of synergism (Gk. “to work together) whereby man has faith and God saves him?” Or, “Is salvation monergism (Gk. “to work alone”) whereby God works a mighty work of grace in the heart, imparting life, and faith, or the ability to look to Christ?” The Bible says, “Salvation belongs to the Lord” (Psalm 3:8). Salvation does not depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy (Rom. 9:16).

“The essence of Calvinism, and the monergistic argument, is that God is in the business of actually saving people, and not merely making them savable. Because all people are born in sin, and because of their fallen nature (total depravity), they will always reject God; therefore, God must act in saving the elect without any pre-condition on their part, such as faith. In order to bestow the blessings of salvation and eternal life to the elect, God must first atone for their sins (limited atonement). This grace and salvation must then be applied to the elect, and thus the Holy Spirit applies the effects of salvation to the elect by regenerating their spirits, and drawing them into salvation (irresistible grace). Finally, those whom God has saved He will preserve to the end (perseverance of the saints). From beginning to end, salvation (in all its aspects) is a work of God and God alone—monergism! The point is that actual people are being saved—the elect. Consider Romans 8:28-30. In that passage we see that there is a group of people whom God “calls according to his purpose.” These people are identified as “those who love God.” These people are also those who in vv. 29-30 are foreknown, predestined, called, justified and glorified. God is the one who is moving this group of people (those who love God, the elect) from foreknowledge to glorification, and none are lost along the way” (website: Got Questions).

The Speaker’s Statement.
An appeal was made by the Arminian speaker to Ephesians 2:8-9 to prove that faith precedes salvation, and a condition.

Response.
In quoting Ephesians 2:8-9, the speaker left out the critical phrase, that faith is a gift of God. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).

Faith being a gift of God is significant, because man does not have natural faith, or natural ability to believe in God. A person can only believe in God who has been given life. When God commands a person dead in trespasses and sin to live, life comes into the soul, indicating a new heart, a new mind, and new spiritual sight. By being born again, a person has the capacity to believe.

Conclusion.
The speaker has every right to rail against Calvinism. Indeed, he must rail against Calvinism in order to have a clear conscience on this matter. However, it may be that one day God will open his eyes to spiritual truth, and he will see that salvation is of the Lord, and is not based on man’s own will.

What the speaker had to say is two thousand years old. Before John Calvin there was St. Augustine, and before Augustine there was the apostle Paul, who, as we have seen, anticipated the questions of the Pelagian, the Semi-Pelagian, and the Arminian, and gave an answer. It is Paul’s answer we wish to provide to our Armenian brethren. The speaker does not have a problem with Calvinism as much he has a problem with the Scriptures. That is the tragedy of the discussion.

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