Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Regeneration Precedes Faith

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Introduction

In 1986, Tyndale House Publishers released R.C. Sproul's Chosen By God. In 1999, Bethany House Publishers released Norman Geisler's Chosen But Free, which, while not stating such, appears to be a refutation of Sproul's work. In 2000, Calvary Press Publishing released The Potter's Freedom, James White's response to Geisler's work. Sproul wrote the foreword for The Potter's Freedom. In 2001, Geisler released a second edition of Chosen But Free, and responded to White in an addendum (Appendix 13). White responded to Geisler through an article on his website, titled A Most Disappointing Response.

Chosen By God

In Chosen by God, Sproul writes:
The cure for spiritual death is the creation of spiritual life in our souls by God the Holy Spirit. (112)
He then quotes Ephesians 2:1-10 and explains:
What is here called quickening or being made alive is what is elsewhere called rebirth or regeneration. The term regeneration, as the word suggests, indicates a "generating again." To generate means to cause to happen or to begin. We think of the first book of the Bible, the book of beginnings, which is called Genesis. The prefix re means simply "again." Therefore the word regeneration means to begin something again. It is the new beginning of life that we are concerned with here, the beginning of spiritual life. (113)
He gives further explanation by showing:
It is the beginning of new life but it is not the total sum of the new life. It is the crucial point of transition from spiritual death to spiritual life. (117)

When God regenerates a human soul, when he makes us spiritually alive, we make choices. We believe. We have faith. We cling to Christ. God does not believe for us. (118)

In regeneration, God changes our hearts. He gives us a new disposition, a new inclination. He plants a desire for Christ in our hearts. We can never trust Christ for our salvation unless we first desire him. That is why we said earlier that regeneration precedes faith. (118)
The process of salvation as expressed by Sproul is:

Regeneration - Faith - Salvation

Chosen But Free

Geisler, in Why Blame Me?, Chapter 2 of Chosen But Free, writes:
Indeed, one response to the problem of divine sovereignty and human responsibility is that of extreme Calvinism. (19)
The footnote associated with the above sentence reads:
We use the term "extreme" rather than "hyper" since hyper-Calvinism is used by some to designate a more radical view known as "superlapsarianism," which entails double predestination…

Nonetheless, we call them "extreme" Calvinists because they are more extreme than John Calvin himself (see appendix 2) and to distinguish them from moderate Calvinists (see chapter 7)
Not only does Geisler make the mistake of referring to supra-lapsarianism as super-lapsarianism, he also creates two brand new categories of Calvinists: the extreme and the moderate.

In his foreword to The Potter's Freedom, Sproul responds:
Apart from mislabeling his own views, Geisler makes a spirited defense of historic Arminianism, and in the process seeks to paint historic Calvinism as not only "extreme," but false. (15)
Geisler's asks the question, Is Regeneration Prior to Faith?, in Appendix 10 of his work:
A fundamental pillar in the extreme Calvinists' view is the belief that regeneration is logically prior to faith. That is, we are saved in order to believe; we do not believe in order to be saved. (235)
The Appendix is broken into two sections:
  1. Verses offered by extreme Calvinists in support of their view
  2. Verses that demonstrate that faith is prior to salvation
Notice here that Geisler is using the terms regeneration and salvation synonymously. As such, his process of salvation can be expressed thusly:

Faith - Salvation/Regeneration

The confusion over the issue of regeneration preceding faith arises from the different understanding and usage of the term regeneration. Geisler and other non-Calvinists use their own definition of the term to critique Calvinism, expressing their understanding of the Calvinist process of salvation thusly:

Salvation - Faith

My purpose in writing this article is to show that regeneration, as it is understood by Calvinists, must precede faith. To that end, we will first look at the Canons of Dordt, specifically the section presenting man's spiritual depravity. Following that, we will see from the writing and preaching of selected Calvinists that they affirm the idea of regeneration preceding faith. This article will conclude with a look at the story of the raising of Lazarus from John 11. In my opinion, it is one of the best illustrations of regeneration preceding faith.

The Canons of Dordt

The Third and Fourth Main Points of Doctrine are subtitled, Human Corruption, Conversion to God, and the Way It Occurs.
Article 3: Total Inability
Therefore, all people are conceived in sin and are born children of wrath, unfit for any saving good, inclined to evil, dead in their sins, and slaves to sin; without the grace of the regenerating Holy Spirit they are neither willing nor able to return to God, to reform their distorted nature, or even to dispose themselves to such reform.

Article 12: Regeneration a Supernatural Work
And this is the regeneration, the new creation, the raising from the dead, and the making alive so clearly proclaimed in the Scriptures, which God works in us without our help. But this certainly does not happen only by outward teaching, by moral persuasion, or by such a way of working that, after God has done his work, it remains in man's power whether or not to be reborn or converted. Rather, it is an entirely supernatural work, one that is at the same time most powerful and most pleasing, a marvelous, hidden, and inexpressible work, which is not lesser than or inferior in power to that of creation or of raising the dead, as Scripture (inspired by the author of this work) teaches. As a result, all those in whose hearts God works in this marvelous way are certainly, unfailingly, and effectively reborn and do actually believe. And then the will, now renewed, is not only activated and motivated by God but in being activated by God is also itself active. For this reason, man himself, by that grace which he has received, is also rightly said to believe and to repent.

Article 16: Regeneration's Effect
However, just as by the fall man did not cease to be man, endowed with intellect and will, and just as sin, which has spread through the whole human race, did not abolish the nature of the human race but distorted and spiritually killed it, so also this divine grace of regeneration does not act in people as if they were blocks and stones; nor does it abolish the will and its properties or coerce a reluctant will by force, but spiritually revives, heals, reforms, and - in a manner at once pleasing and powerful - bends it back. As a result, a ready and sincere obedience of the Spirit now begins to prevail where before the rebellion and resistance of the flesh were completely dominant. It is in this that the true and spiritual restoration and freedom of our will consists. Thus, if the marvelous Maker of every good thing were not dealing with us, man would have no hope of getting up from his fall by his free choice, by which he plunged himself into ruin when still standing upright.

Rejection of the errors - IV
Who teach that unregenerate man is not strictly or totally dead in his sins or deprived of all capacity for spiritual good but is able to hunger and thirst for righteousness or life and to offer the sacrifice of a broken and contrite spirit which is pleasing to God.

For these views are opposed to the plain testimonies of Scripture: You were dead in your transgressions and sins (Eph. 2:1, 5); The imagination of the thoughts of man's heart is only evil all the time (Gen. 6:5; 8:21). Besides, to hunger and thirst for deliverance from misery and for life, and to offer God the sacrifice of a broken spirit is characteristic only of the regenerate and of those called blessed (Ps. 51:17; Matt. 5:6).
The Canons here, in that which they affirm and reject, show that the first work of salvation is a work of the Holy Spirit, without which no one would or could be saved. Ezekiel 36:26 describes regeneration as the act of God giving "a new heart, and a new spirit," while at the same time removing "the heart of stone from your flesh."

Calvinists affirmation of regeneration preceding faith

Abraham Kuyper shows that "the word 'regeneration' is used in [both] a limited sense, and in a more extended sense." He writes:
It is used in the limited sense when it denotes exclusively God's act of quickening, which is the first divine act whereby God translates us from death into life, from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of His dear Son. In this sense regeneration is the starting point.
A.A. Hodge explains the narrowing of the word's usage to refer to the opening stage of salvation:
In the development of Protestant theology the term has been still further narrowed: first, to express the opening stage of this subjective work as distinguished from its continuance in sanctification; and then, since the seventeenth century, to express the initial divine act in this opening stage itself, as distinguished from the broader term conversion, which includes, along with the act of God, revivifying man, also the act of man in turning to God.
In Regeneration, Chapter 29 of Hodge's Outlines of Theology, he uses a question and answer format:
Question 11
What is the difference between regeneration and conversion?

Answer
The term conversion is often used in a wide sense as including both the change of nature and the exercise of that nature as changed. When distinguished from regeneration, however, conversion signifies the first exercise of the new disposition implanted in regeneration, i.e., in freely turning unto God.

Regeneration is God's act; conversion is ours. Regeneration is the implantation of a gracious principle; conversion is the exercise of that principle. Regeneration is never a matter of direct consciousness to the subject of it; conversion always is such to the agent of it. Regeneration is a single act, complete in itself; and never repeated; conversion, as the beginning of holy living, is the commencement of a series, constant, endless, and progressive.
John Bunyan, in what is reported to be his final sermon, shows from John 1:13 that regeneration is indeed the first necessity for salvation:
Suppose it be the gospel, he cannot see it before he be brought into a state of regeneration. Believing is the consequence of the new birth; 'not of blood, nor of the will of man, but of God.'

…as soon as he has raised you out of the dark dungeon of sin, you cannot but cry to God, What must I do to be saved? As soon as ever God had touched the jailer, he cries out, 'Men and brethren, what must I do to be saved?'
James P. Boyce was the first president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Louisville, KY). In Regeneration and Conversion, Chapter 32 of his Abstract of Systematic Theology, he writes:
At the outset of a discussion of these two subjects we are met by the question, whether they are not one and the same thing. They are unquestionably so intimately associated that it is difficult to separate them and point out the distinctions between them. The Scriptures connect the two under the one idea of the new birth, and teach that not only is regeneration an absolute essential in each conversion, but that in every intelligent responsible soul conversion invariably accompanies regeneration. It is not strange, therefore, that they are often confounded. Yet, after all, the Scriptures also teach that regeneration is the work of God, changing the heart of man by his sovereign will, while conversion is the act of man turning towards God with the new inclination thus given to his heart. (373)

The relation of regeneration to conversion will, therefore, appear to be one of invariable antecedence. (380)
C.H. Spurgeon preached a sermon in 1871 titled Faith and Regeneration. With 1 John 5:1 as his text, he stated it in this manner:
There never was a grain of such faith as this in the world, except in a regenerate soul, and there never will be while the world standeth. It is so according to the text, and if we had no other testimony this one passage would be quite enough to prove it. "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God."

To believe in Jesus is a better indicator of regeneration than anything else, and in no case did it ever mislead. Faith in the living God and his Son Jesus Christ is always the result of the new birth, and can never exist except in the regenerate. Whoever has faith is a saved man.
John Piper, in a sermon titled Regeneration, Faith, Love: In That Order, used the same passage as Spurgeon, and showed that "…regeneration is the cause of faith":
That's plain in 1 John 5:1: "Everyone who believes [that is, has faith] that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God." Having been born of God results in our believing. Our believing is the immediate evidence of God's begetting.
What is common to all of the above Calvinists is their affirmation that regeneration is a necessary prerequisite to faith and thus salvation.

The Raising of Lazarus
John 11:38-44
38Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39Jesus said, "Take away the stone." Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, "Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days." 40Jesus said to her, "Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?" 41So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me." 43When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out." 44The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go."
There are three distinct phases in the raising of Lazarus. I believe that they show, in a physical manner, that which happens spiritually in salvation. The three correspond to Calvinism's process of salvation: Regeneration - Faith - Salvation. We will look at: Lazarus in the grave, Lazarus leaving the grave, and Lazarus unbound.

Lazarus in the grave
It has always fascinated me to read that Jesus, after finding out that Lazarus was sick, did not immediately rush to him, but stayed where he was. He arrives in Bethany four days after the death and burial, enough time for the body to be in a state of decay, which Martha notes in verse 39. Jesus requests the stone be removed and commands Lazarus to "come forth." The Scripture does not give any detail about what happens inside the tomb in the interval between the command of Jesus to Lazarus and Lazarus' obedience to that command.

But Lazarus is dead, and therefore has no inherent ability to revive himself. In order for him to come to life, a force external to him, and which is able to overcome death, must work on his behalf. That force is clearly the life-giving command of God, in the person of Jesus. The command causes a halt to the physical decay, even reversing it, so that moments later when he is unbound, there is no evidence of the sickness that caused his death. Jesus does not do partial resurrections! Lazarus is restored to full health while still inside the tomb. But, it is not enough for him to stay in his tomb; the miracle is not yet complete.

The spiritual application is unmistakable. The unregenerate are spiritually dead, and have no ability to effect their spiritual resurrection. The Holy Spirit effects the resurrection, the restored birth, the regeneration. He does that by means of the word of God proclaimed. Those who are given new life by the Holy Spirit do not choose to stay in their spiritual graves. They freely and willingly leave their tombs. We see then that regeneration, the coming to life of the spiritually dead, must be a first cause. It is a cause that is external to the individual, accomplished without the aid of the individual.

White, in The Potter's Freedom, explains:
On the level of spiritual capacity the unregenerate man is just like Lazarus: dead, bound, incapable of "self-resurrection." It would be patently absurd to demand that Jesus first ask Lazarus for "permission" to raise him to spiritual life. Corpses are not known for engaging in a great deal of conversation. No, before Lazarus can respond to Christ's command to come forth, something must happen. Corpses do not obey commands, corpses do not move. Jesus changed Lazarus' condition first: Lazarus' heart was made new; his mind revitalized. Blood began once again to course through his veins. What was once dead is now alive, and can now hear the voice of his beloved Lord. "Come forth!" (284)
Lazarus leaving the grave
Now that Lazarus has been restored to life, he does the only logical thing - he obeys the command to leave the tomb! Dead men who are brought to life have no desire to remain in their tombs. It is significant to note that no one goes into the tomb to carry Lazarus out. He is not dragged against his will from his tomb. He comes out of the tomb under his own power, but would not have had that power had he not been made alive by the command of Jesus. He exercises faith! It is unthinkable to imagine that he could have struggled with the decision to stay in the tomb or come out. The command was irresistible on two counts: first, it was Jesus who issued the command, and death was powerless against his command; and second, an alive Lazarus would never choose the grave over being restored to his loved ones. But the miracle is not yet complete, for Lazarus is still wearing his grave clothes.

Here again, the spiritual application is obvious. Those who have been brought to life always respond by exercising faith. Also, they do it most willingly and freely. Regeneration is the cause, while faith is the effect.

Lazarus unbound
In addition to the command to Lazarus, Jesus also issues a command to those present, the community of the living. They are given instructions to "unbind" him. Once that is accomplished he can begin his life again. The miracle of resurrection is complete, but the process of living his resurrected life is just beginning.

The spiritual application is clear. My pastor constantly references the need for Christian community, and it is that community that assists the resurrected one. The miracle of salvation does not end with our exit from our spiritual grave; it is just beginning. We now live and grow within the community of the resurrected, where each contributes to the other.

Conclusion

Regeneration precedes faith and is the cause of faith. Those regenerated always and without fail exercise faith, and exercised faith is salvation. Let each of us who has been regenerated give praise to God for the mercy and grace he has shown in raising us to spiritual life.

All scripture quotations are English Standard Version
unless otherwise noted.

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Links in this article are provided solely for information purposes,
and do not in any way imply full and complete endorsement.

29 comments :

J. Brian McKillop said...

I have linked to this article on Sharper Iron. You can follow the discussion there by pasting this link into your browser:

http://bit.ly/c41Xfe

Anonymous said...

Can anyone answer my question? Is the following reference to "eternal life" in regard to the quickening which happens prior to faith?:

"I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life" (Jn.5:24).

Thanks!

J. Brian McKillop said...

John 5:24 - The hearing precedes the believing, which results in the having of eternal life. It appears then that the eternal life is not the quickening but is the ultimate result of the quickening.

Anonymous said...

Brian, thanks for your answer. However, I still remain a little confused.

"He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath eternal life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life" (Jn.5:24).

Is the phrase passing "from death unto life" in regard to the "life" which is described as being eternal earlier in the verse?

Or does that phrase refer to the regeneration which prcedes faith?

Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Earlier I asked:

"Is the phrase passing "from death unto life" in regard to the "life" which is described as being eternal earlier in the verse?"

After further study I see that it must refer to the eternal life mentioned in John 5:24. Here the Apostle John makes it plain that "life" does not come BEFORE faith but instead it comes when one believes:

"Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31But these are written that you may[a] believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name" (Jn.20:30-31).

Regeneration comes at the time of faith so therefore it is impossible that it occurs before faith. After all, one must be dead before he can be regenerated so therefore one is not alive before he comes to faith.

J. Brian McKillop said...

In order to give a lengthier response, I have copy/pasted all of the above comments to post #8 on the Sharper Iron discussion:

http://bit.ly/c41Xfe

If you are not a member of SI or want to remain anonymous, please feel free to continue commenting here and I will add your comments to that discussion.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, J. Brian,

You said:

"Here we note that the Father raises the dead and gives life to those He has raised. So the order of this process is – Father raising the dead to life, those now raised hear the word, believe, and are promised everlasting life. The phrase “passed from death into life,” summarizes the process."

By the words of the Apostle John we can understand that the sinner passes from "death unto life" as a result of "believing":

"Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name" (Jn.20:30-31).

John says that "by believing you may have life." That means that the sinner is not passed from death unto life until he believes--not before. After all, in order to receive "life" as a result of believing the sinner must be "dead" before he believes.

Anonymous said...

J. Brian, you said:

"I agree that regeneration comes at the time of faith as there is no time lag between regeneration and faith, but it is regeneration that causes faith, not vice versa."

So you disagree with other Calvinists like Sproul and Gerstner who say that "regeneration precedes faith"?

The following verses prove that it is "believing" that results in regeneration:

"Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name" (Jn.20:30-31).

Please notice the words "that by believing you may have life in His name." Here it is faith that causes regeneration. I cannot possible see how you can read John's words there and say that "regeneration that causes faith"?

Would you please tell me how you can come to that conclusion despite the fact that John says "that by believing you may have faith in His name"?

Thanks!

SteveB said...

Dear Brian,
The validity of the Reformed Notion of Predestination rises or falls on this issue: Does regeneration precede faith? RC Sproul understands the critical nature of this point. He brands anyone who believes that faith precedes regeneration a heretic in an online article, “The New Genesis”. In my opinion, this is the most critical battle within the church today! This issue has caused schisms in the body of Christ, it has split churches and has been instrumental in breaking relationships among believers.

This great concern was a catalyst for devoting several years of intensive research of the Scriptures, to test this critical Reformed contention. I would be interested in you being a good Berean, and testing the following points, to see whether they are so. I have yet to have a Reformed proponent willing to enter into a discussion of these points.

Reformed Doctrine is based upon an unbiblical definition and description of regeneration. I will give a simple Biblical summary of what regeneration is, and then give a list of the Scriptures.

Quite simply, a person is regenerated when Jesus Christ comes to dwell in their hearts to give His life, God’s gift of eternal life. We are saved when Jesus Christ comes to live inside of us, to give us His life. Jesus Christ is God’s gift to us. Eternal life is God's gift to us. Salvation is God's gift to us. We receive this wonderful gift from God when we are born again. Let's look at the Scripture.

cont...

SteveB said...

cont...
1. BIBLICALLY, REGENERATION IS THE SAVING WORK OF GOD, NOT A PRECURSORY WORK OF GOD TO ENABLE BELIEF
We are saved by the washing of regeneration (Titus 3:5)
"Made alive with Jesus Christ, by grace you have been saved (Eph. 2:5).
Saved by His life (Rom. 5:10).
Christ is our life (Col. 3:4).

We receive the promise of the Spirit through faith (Gal.3:14).
Christ comes to dwell in our hearts by faith (Eph. 3:17).

There is no new life for men apart from the indwelling of Jesus Christ. The critical work of Jesus Christ, to cleanse us and to prepare us to receive His indwelling presence, thereby saving us, is totally overlooked in Reformed Doctrine because of faulty presuppositions.

2. There was no regeneration before Jesus Christ came to redeem men and rose from the dead.

When did Jesus Christ first begin to dwell inside of men? Not until after He came to redeem men. Note what Paul states in Galatians 4:
"When the fulness of time had come, God sent forth His Son... born under the Law...to redeem men from the Law that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because you are sons (by adoption) God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts" (Gal. 4:5-6). Jesus did not dwell inside of any man's heart before He came to redeem them: redemption is in His blood (Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14; Heb. 9:12)

Peter also places the timing of the new birth after the resurrection. He tells us that we are born again through the resurrection of Jesus Chrsit from the dead. (1Pet. 1:3). Men were not "born again through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" before the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

Jesus Christ came to redeem men, save men, and to give them eternal life.

cont...

SteveB said...

3. Faith precedes God’s saving work of regeneration in history, and in the life of each individual.

When did men begin receiving the new birth, the indwelling of Jesus Christ? Not until after Jesus rose from the dead. Did men have faith in God prior to the resurrection? Yes of course they did. Hebrews 11 give us a list of great men of faith. A key verse in this chapter is Hebrews 11:6-- "Without faith it is impossible to please God, for he that comes to God must first believe that He exists and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him". Paul tells us that God created men to seek Him (Acts 17:26-27). Men can have faith before the new birth, and they did have faith prior to anyone being born again. Men were created to seek God, and men could and did seek God, prior to the new birth. Cornelius happens to be a perfect example of this. Once you understand that regeneration is God's saving work and not an enabling work as Reformed Doctrine teaches, then it becomes quite clear that Cornelius had not been regenerated prior to the angel speaking to Him. For the angel told Cornelius that Peter would tell him words whereby he would be saved (Acts 11:14). Cornelius and others were saved by regeneration in Acts 11:15-17 when they “received the gift after believing”. They received the promised Holy Spirit by faith (Gal. 3:14), Cornelius had been believing in God, seeking God, fearing God, and pleasing God with his prayers and alms (Acts 10:1-4) long before he was regenerated..

4. We become "one" with God when we are regenerated, and men were not indwelt by the Father, and made one with the Father prior to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

God has given us the "one flesh" relationship of marriage to help us understand the relationship that we have with Him. Jesus was the first man who could claim, "The Father is in Me, I am in the Father, and 'The Father and I are "ONE". Jesus prays for us that we will experience this relationship too, in John 17. Men did not have the Father indwelling them prior to the redeeming work of God. The shedding of Christ's blood so that we could be cleansed from all sin is one of the many critical components that we needed before we could be joined to God. Now that Jesus has died, resurrected and became the High Priest to apply the one sacrifice that can cleanse us and sanctify us, then God the Father comes to indwell us with Jesus Christ, and to make Himself ONE with us. "The one who joins himself to the Lord is "one spirit" with Him" 1Cor. 6:17 (see also John 17:20-24; 1John 3:23, 24; 4:15-6)

I'm sure that is more than enough for now.

In Christ,
Anonymous 2

J. Brian McKillop said...

SteveB,

Thank you for your comments. I am in the process of writing a new blog article titled, "Monergism vs. Synergism," which, time permitting, I should finish next month. I believe the disagreement is between those 2 views regarding salvation. Either God does everything in salvation, or man contributes to his own salvation in some way.

Calvinists affirm the monergistic view, and all others (even those who refer to themselves as Biblicists) affirm the synergistic view. If Monergism is the correct view, then God must, without any assistance on the part of the sinner, give life. It is that initial giving of life that we call regeneration. It is, as I showed in the article, that which happened to Lazarus in the grave, allowing him to exit the grave.

What changes Romans 3:10-18 people into seekers and followers of Christ? It is not something inherent to them. It is a work of the Holy Spirit accomplished through hearing the Gospel. Ezekiel was commanded to prophesy to some dry bones (Eze 38). God, using the words of the prophet caused the bones to be joined, flesh to cover them, and breath to come into them, restoring them to life. The bones contributed absolutely nothing to their physical restoration. In Ezekiel 38:14 we read, “I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live…” This is another perfect example of salvation – God bringing the dead to life without any assistance on the part of those dead.

J. Brian McKillop said...

SteveB,

You wrote:

“The critical work of Jesus Christ, to cleanse us and to prepare us to receive His indwelling presence, thereby saving us, is totally overlooked in Reformed Doctrine because of faulty presuppositions.”

Monergists define that critical work as regeneration.

Prophet Among Them said...

Perhaps understanding that as mortals we are able to comprehend salvific essentials in chronological sequence. Because of our limitation as mortals, we comprehend such issues in logical sequence. Regeneration preceding faith is both logical and theologically sound.

SteveB said...

Prophet,
It is not Biblically sound to claim that men were regenerated before Jesus Christ rose from the dead and began dwelling in men's hearts.

SteveB

SteveB said...

Brian,
Were men regenerated before Jesus Christ rose from the dead (1Peter 1:3)? Did God send His Son to live in men’s hearts before Christ came to redeem men from the Law (Gal. 4:4-6)? Do you believe that a man is “made alive with Jesus Christ” apart from Jesus Christ coming to live inside of him (Eph. 2:5)? Is there another source of life outside of “the life that is in the flesh is in the blood” and “Christ who is our life” (Col. 3:4)?

SteveB

SteveB said...

Brian,
I was reading your other posts on this theme in the Sharper Iron site. I see you enjoy quoting from John Piper on occasion. While you may be taking some time to contemplate how to answer my questions, I thought you might enjoy these quotes by John Piper. They came from his three month sermon series on the “New Birth”. Prior to this sermon series I spent much time perusing Piper’s sermons, looking to see if he ever connected that the life given in the new birth is eternal life, or if he understood that Jesus comes to dwell in us in the new birth, or if he realized that we were saved by the new birth. I did not find the connection to any of these things… until this sermon series.
We had challenged our former pastor about these issues. His answer was that there must be some sort of “prevenient grace”. (We tried to show him that made him a synergistic Arminian). Shortly afterward this pastor did a seminar at Piper’s church. Coincidently, Piper began his sermon series on the new birth about 6 weeks later. Much to our surprise John Piper was connecting the new birth to the indwelling of Jesus Christ, and the receiving of eternal life, and the point of salvation. It was interesting watching how he danced around the problem of faith coming before eternal life and salvation in the scriptures, yet regeneration needing to come before faith to hold to the Doctrinal tenants. You caught the drift in his sermons… regeneration and faithare synonymous. This creates a minor problem that I would ask you about, but I would prefer that you answer the questions from the last post first. The problem with making regeneration and faith simultaneous is the insistence by Re-formed proponents that the unregenerate are totally unresponsive and unperceptive to spiritual things. Supposedly they cannot even hear the gospel until they are given new ears to hear. The natural cannot perceive the spiritual (verse taken out of context, wrong interpretation). The unregenerate is said to need to be made into a whole new creation: defined as “new ears” now enabled to hear the gospel, “new eyes”, “new nature for spiritual perception and understanding”, “new heart, to create new desires” etc . Let’s focus on the “hearing of the gospel”. The unregenerate cannot “hear or perceive” at any point in their life until one moment before regeneration. The very next moment he is made a new creature, given his new ears to hear, but in that exact same instant he ;has already trusted Jesus Christ, and was saved. When did he really hear the gospel? Are all men really regenerated during a gospel presentation, and if so, how much of the gospel do they really hear, if regeneration and faith are simultaneous? .......But like I said this is the minor point to ponder.
The issue I was working through was developing a concise rock solid case proving there was no regeneration before the resurrection. That fact poses irreconcilable problems to all of the peculiar Reformed tenets. Surprise of all surprises, John Piper made the case for me! Although his case will not be adequate to convince anyone, it will show that there are huge discrepancies in this man’s teaching. (I also have a similar list of quotes by John MacArthur).

cont...

SteveB said...

QOUTES BY JOHN PIPER: I will give the quote, the sermon title, then the sermon date.

“The second objective historical event that had to happen for us to be born again with eternal life was the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (“Receive With Meekness the Implanted Word 1/6/08).

“The new birth is something that happens in us when the Holy Spirit takes our dead hearts and unites us to Christ by faith so that HIS LIFE BECOMES OUR LIFE. SO IT MAKES SENSE THAT JESUS MUST BE RAISED FROM THE DEAD IF WE ARE TO HAVE NEW LIFE IN UNION WITH HIM” (ibid. 1/6/08). (I do not know how to put words in bold type in this format,that is why the letters are in caps…. I am not yelling.)

“New birth happens, you remember, in union with the INCARNATE CHRIST, not simply the spiritual Son of God” (ibid. 1/6/08).

“The new life we get in the new birth is the life of the historical Jesus. Therefore, if He does not rise from the dead, there is no new life to have”. (ibid. 1/6/08)

“The incarnation is necessary for the new birth because the life we have through the new birth is life in union with the incarnate Christ…THAT LIFE THAT WE HAVE IN UNION WITH CHRIST IS THE LIFE THAT JESUS OBTAINED FOR US BY THE LIFE THAT HE LIVED AND THE DEATH THAT HE DIED IN THE FLESH.” (“The Reason the Son of God appeared was to Destroy the Works of the Devil” 12/23/07)

“NO INCARNATION. NO REGENERATION” (ibid 12/23/07).

“IF THERE IS NO INCARNATION, THERE IS NO UNION WITH THE SON OR WITH THE FATHER, AND NO REGENERATION AND NO SALVATION” (ibid 12/23/07)

“WITHOUT THE INCARNATION…THERE WOULD BE NO REGENERATION AND NO SAVING FAITH…” (ibid.12/23/07).

SteveB said...

cont...So, I am extremely interested to see how you answer the questions from the last post. Then I would like to know if you agree with Piper’s quotes? Do you understand the ramifications this poses to Re-formed Theology? No regeneration prior to the resurrection is really bad news for Re-formed proponents. Think through the book of John, and how many Re-formed ‘proof texts’ and interpretations come out of the book of John which are assuming that God is regenerating men in John 3, 5, 6, 10 etc…Those are unbiblical interpretations. The description of unregenerate men given by Re-formed Doctrine is unbiblical, (because the verses utilized to make this description are out of context and erroneously interpreted). If there is no regeneration before the resurrection, then there is no “bondage of the will”. “Bondage of the Will” is also an unbiblical explanation of what it means to be a slave to sin.

I wrote to Piper about these concerns, but he had his aid write back to tell me he was too busy to correspond. Like I said, nobody wants to dialog about the Scriptures. They merely resort to citing Re-formed rhetoric.

Sola Scriptura,
SteveB

J. Brian McKillop said...

SteveB,

I would love to move our discussion to SI, as more folks would benefit by the discussion there. If you are willing, you could post your first posts from May 24, then I would add my reply, followed by your posts in the order we have them here.

Let me know if that is acceptable to you.

The SI thread is:

http://bit.ly/c41Xfe

SteveB said...

I can only read SharperIron posts. I cannot post there. Sseveral years ago, when I began to piece together the proof texts that regeneration was the saving work of God, I got kicked off of the Sharper Iron board. After I got kicked off the board, I continued to prayerfully learn, though I didn't have anyone of a Reformed persuasion to discuss with, to see how they would respond to the things I was learning. Just for fun, I turned to the Sharperiron forum the other day to see if there was any discussion about regeneration, and that is when I found your post, and your reference to your blog post. I would really like to interact with someone in regards to these truths.

It has been said that debates are lost and won on the defining of the terms. The question is, who gets to define the biblical terms? Who do you listen to? If someone states that "regeneration is replacing the stony heart with a fleshly heart, so that a person can believe to be saved" it may sound good at the time. But, if you look to the scripture, and find Paul teaching we are saved by regeneration (Titus 3:5), saved when we are made alive with Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:5), save by His life (Rom. 5:10). And then you add to that Christ is our life (Col. 3:4), and only those who have the Son have the gift of eternal life, and those that do not have the Son do not have the life (1John 5:11-12). The Scriptures teach that Christ comes to dwell in our hearts by faith (Eph. 3:17), and we receive the promise of the spirit through faith (Gal. 3:14). In the Bible there are only two kinds of life: life we are given in the flesh, which will ultimately perish, and God's gift of eternal life, which we are given when we receive the gift of God's Son, God's gift of salvation. The Apostle John is so specific, "he that believeth not the Son shall not see life" (John 3:36).

I now believe it is our responsibility, not just to find or accept a Bible phrase or a verse which supports an idea, but we need to find out if the idea is actually being taught in the Bible. We also need to put definitions to the test.

Cont...

SteveB said...

God sent His Son into the world to give us eternal life, and so that through Him we might be saved (John 3:16, 17). The work of Jesus Christ would remedy so many issues that we faced. One probelem was the defilement that sin brought. The OT sacrifices could only purify the flesh (Heb 9:13). The blood of those animals could not go into the inner man to purify him, or take away the sins (Heb. 10:4). We needed the indwelling of God to receive an eternal life source that would not perish, but first we needed a total cleansing from all sin. That would only come from the sacrificial shedding of the blood of the Lamb of God. We are given that new life source when we are born of the Spirit. The life given by the Spirit of God is eternal lfie. Jesus told Nicodemas about how he could be born again. He used the story of Moses,"as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness..." In that story men were being stung, and they needed to look to the serpent on the pole to live. In the same way, we suffer with a sting of death which is sin. We too must look to Christ to live. So in the same way, Jesus had to be lifted up, so that whosoever would believe in Him could receive God's gift of eternal life, and not perish. When a person believes the gospel message, they are baptized by Jesus Christ our high priest, and we are baptized into His body (1Cor. 12:13), baptized into His death (Rom.6:3) . We are crucified with Christ, dead with Christ and buried with Christ, and circumcised by Christ (Col. 2:11), before we are made alive with Jesus Christ and saved (Eph. 2:5), raised up with Christ, and seated with Christ in the heavenly (Eph. 2:6). Theres a lot more detail in Scripture and references for all of these facts upon request. But none of this could happen until Jesus was crucified, dead, buried and resurrected. That's why Peter says that we are "born again through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1Peter 1:3).

If these are true Biblical facts, then they are devestating to Reformed Doctrine. The Reformed description of the unregenerate is not Biblical. It is merely a random assortment of phrases or isolated verses. Men did have faith before there was regeneration. The impossibility was for man to save himself. Man couldn't and didn't save himself by faith-- He didn't receive the indwelling of the Son of God when they believed prior to the resurrection. But after the resurrection, when a man placed his faith in Jesus Christ, then a number of things happen in an instant, which I will not list here, culminating in God dispating the Spirit of His Son into our hearts (Gal. 4:6). That is what gives man salvation and the new birth, receiving the new eternal life source, God himself.

Cont...

SteveB said...

As a Reformed proponent, you have no problem saying that salvation comes after faith. I have said that salvation comes after faith. God is intimately involved in a person before the person comes to faith. God has given us His witness in many ways, including sending people our way who will sow His Word into our hearts. His Word is supernatural, and it does a work in the heart of the unregenerate. God has given His Holy Spirit who also works in the heart of a person to covict him of sin, righteousness and the judgment. In the same way that I plant a seed in my garden and know that I will not see fruit from this action for many days or months, I know that I may not see the fruit of conversion the first time I sow the seed of the word into a mans heart. Even Jesus tells us that the devil tries to steal away the word so that the person will not "believe to be saved (by regeneration) Luke 8:12. Paul tells us that there can be those who sow, and then others may water, and even others may participate in helping with the harvest (1Cor. 3). God is intimately involved before faith and God does all the work after faith. And like I said before, we both believe that faith comes before salvation.

Context is everything. When a person is supposed to "test themselves to see whether they are in the faith"-- the verse doesn't stop there, though all of the Reformed people that I have heard stop there. It goes on to say, "Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you! Unless you faith the test" (2Cor. 13:5)

I believe that teaching from the catholic church, the teaching of infant baptism was very prominent at the time that the early Reformers were writing down their doctrinal tenants. When you begin with certain presuppositions that may not be Biblical, then you tend to see some things in the Scriptures, but miss many other details. They set up their own definitions for regeneration, based upon what they had been taught about the condition of the unregenerate.

I'm sorry I let this get too long.

In Christ,
SteveB

J. Brian McKillop said...

SteveB,

Since your comments are post length I would suggest you start your own blog and post your research there. I have a number of articles I would like to write but because of limited time haven't gotten to them. I will not have time to respond to each of the objections you raise, as my own articles take precedence.

It's interesting that 4 individuals have commented on my article, 2 here and 2 in personal communication. Of the 4 none have interacted with what I actually wrote, yet all have disputed my title.

I wrote the following reply late last night, but again, will be limited in future responses.

J. Brian McKillop said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J. Brian McKillop said...

Once you understand that regeneration is God's saving work and not an enabling work as Reformed Doctrine teaches…

That is exactly the point of my article, that non-Calvinist’s use the terms “regeneration” and “salvation” synonymously, whereas Calvinist’s use the terms to represent different aspects of the transaction. Regeneration is not, as you note, an enabling work, as God gifts everything in salvation, including repentance and faith. God is the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), from beginning to end, everything is by His hand.

J. Brian McKillop said...

Quite simply, a person is regenerated when Jesus Christ comes to dwell in their hearts to give His life, God’s gift of eternal life. We are saved when Jesus Christ comes to live inside of us, to give us His life.

There is no new life for men apart from the indwelling of Jesus Christ.

When did Jesus Christ first begin to dwell inside of men? Not until after He came to redeem men.

Men were not "born again through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" before the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

When did men begin receiving the new birth, the indwelling of Jesus Christ? Not until after Jesus rose from the dead.

Men did not have the Father indwelling them prior to the redeeming work of God.


If I understand you correctly, you are positing that Christ, the second person of the Trinity, indwells believers at the point of salvation. You then use that idea as a presupposition in refuting Monergism, by showing that salvation could not be realized until after the death and resurrection of Christ. But it is the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity that actually indwells believers. You reference Galatians 4:5-6 to substantiate your position, but that passage shows that the Spirit, not the Son, indwells believers.

…God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts…

What you are proposing is a new (to me) argument against the Monergistic view of salvation. I am quite sure that when my folks led me to the Lord at the age of 5, they had me “ask Jesus to come into my heart.” Throughout my lifetime I have sung many times the chorus “Into My Heart,” as well as “Since Jesus Came Into My Heart.” Those songs along with the standard salvation prayer, present a false view of salvation, since Jesus is not the indwelling person of the Trinity.

Did men have faith in God prior to the resurrection? Yes of course they did. Hebrews 11 give us a list of great men of faith.

You speak of individuals having faith prior to Jesus indwelling them, but it seems that if they died before the indwelling of Christ, they are not saved. From that statement, I understand you to be stating that Abraham, David, and the thief on the Cross, for example, were not saved, nor was anyone else who is mentioned in Hebrews 11. I think you are establishing a faulty chronology, by insisting that salvation is not possible until after the resurrection of Christ.

In your Piper quotes, it appears you are reading your presuppositions into his words. I understand him to be insisting that salvation is not possible WITHOUT Christ’s atoning work, which no believer would argue against. What I don’t see him showing is that salvation is not possible until AFTER the resurrection. There is a difference between those views.

SteveB said...

Brian,
You stated, "You speak of individuals having faith prior to Jesus indwelling them, but it seems that if they died before the indwelling of Christ, they are not saved. From that statement, I understand you to be stating that Abraham, David, and the thief on the Cross, for example, were not saved, nor was anyone else who is mentioned in Hebrews 11. I think you are establishing a faulty chronology, by insisting that salvation is not possible until after the resurrection of Christ."

OLD TESTAMENT PEOPLE OF FAITH DIED AND WERE HELD IN SHEOL, WAITING FOR REDEMPTION (deliverance) AND SALVATION.

God declares, "I will ransom them from the power of Sheol" (Hosea 13:14)

David said, "God will redeem my SOUL from the power of Sheol" (Ps. 49:15, 7-9)

Peter proclaimed David was speaking of Jesus Christ when he wrote, "Thou wilt not abandon My SOUL to Hades" (Acts 2:27; Ps. 16:8-11), and then Peter preached "He was neither abandoned to Hades" (Acts 2:31) because Jesus received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:33).

THEY WERE SAVED AFTER GOD SENT HIS SON INTO THE WORLD TO SAVE MEN FROM THEIR SINS. AFTER THEY HAD THEIR SINS TAKEN AWAY, THEN THEY TOO COULD BECOME “ONE” WITH THE FATHER AND THE SON. Their souls were redeemed from Sheol just as the OT had prophesied, and saved when they received the life of Jesus Christ, just like we are today..

SteveB said...

Brian,

Ignoring an inconvenient truth does not make it go away. The Bible teaches that Jesus The Christ does comes to dwell in our hearts. JESUS does not dwell in men’s hearts until after He has provided the redemption in His blood (which requires both an incarnation and a death).

You said, “Those songs along with the standard salvation prayer, present a false view of salvation, since Jesus is not the indwelling person of the Trinity.”

But the Bible teaches the FATHER and the SON indwell men:

Jesus was the first body of flesh who could declare, “The FATHER is in Me, I am in the FATHER, the FATHER and I are “ONE”. Jesus Christ was not indwelling men when He was walking on this earth. Jesus prayed just before His death that we too could experience this union with the Father. “…that they may all be one, even as You FATHER are in Me and I in You, that they may be in Us… I in them and You in Me…” (John 17:20, 23) Jesus’ prayers were answered:

JESUS CHRIST LIVES IN US.

"...Christ in you" (Col 1:27)
"It is no longer I who live, but CHRIST lives in Me" (Gal. 2:20)
"CHRIST may dwell in your hearts through faith" (Eph. 3:17)
"...GOD sends forth the Spirit of HIS SON into our hearts" (Gal. 4:6)
"He who has THE SON has the life; he who does not have THE SON OF GOD does not have the life" (1John 5:11, 12).
"GOD sent His only begotten SON into the world so that we might LIVE through Him" (1John 4:9).


PAUL SPEAKS OF BOTH THE FATHER AND THE SON BEING IN US!

“…you are in the Spirit, if the SPIRIT OF GOD DWELLS in you. But if anyone does not have the SPIRIT OF CHRIST, he does not belong to Him. And if CHRIST is in you…But if the SPIRIT OF HIM WHO RAISED UP JESUS FROM THE DEAD dwells in you, HE WHO RAISED UP JESUS FROM THE DEAD will give life through HIS SPIRIT who dwells in you.” (Rom. 8:9-11)

JOHN SPEAKS OF BOTH THE FATHER AND THE SON BEING IN US!

“The one who confesses THE SON has THE FATHER also” (1John 2:23).
“…you will abide in THE SON and in THE FATHER” (1John 2:24)
“Whoever confesses that Jesus is the SON OF GOD, GOD abides in Him and he in GOD” (1John 2:15).
“…GOD abides in him” (2:16)

Our lives are now hidden with CHRIST in GOD (Col. 3:3)

EVEN JOHN PIPER TEACHES THE INCARNATION IS CRITICAL BEFORE MEN RECEIVE THIS UNION WITH THE FATHER AND THE SON.

“New birth happens, you remember, in union with the INCARNATE CHRIST, not simply the spiritual Son of God” (John Piper sermon 1/6/08).

“IF THERE IS NO INCARNATION, THERE IS NO UNION WITH THE SON OR WITH THE FATHER, AND NO REGENERATION AND NO SALVATION” (John Piper sermon 12/23/07)

You must ignore a massive amount of evidence from the Scripture to hold onto your Doctrinal position.