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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • Rev. David Thommen (URC)
  • John Hendryx
  • Marco Gonzalez

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  • « Excerpts from "Disputation against Scholastic Theology" by Martin Luther | Main | What's Wrong With This Picture? »

    1 John 5:1 by Pastor John Samson

    "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God." - 1 John 5:1

    In the original Greek, the verb tenses in this verse are very revealing. A literal translation reads as follows: "All the ones going on believing (pisteuon, a present tense, continuous action) that Jesus is the Christ has been born (gennesanta, perfect tense - an action already complete with abiding effects) of God." The fact that someone is presently going on believing in Christ shows that they have first been born again. Faith is the evidence of regeneration, not the cause of it. Since both repentance and faith are possible only because of the work of God (regeneration), both are called the gift of God in scripture (Eph. 2:8, 9; Phil. 1:29; 2 Tim 2:24-26).

    "Regeneration is the spiritual change wrought in the heart of man by the Holy Spirit in which a person's inherently sinful nature is so radically impacted, his disposition so affected, his mind so illumined, his will so liberated that a person can and will respond to God in saving faith and willingly live in accord with the will of God." - J. I. Packer

    Posted by John Samson on February 13, 2006 01:35 AM

    Comments

    To drive the point home, it is important to note is that several times in this epistle, John speaks of other actions that take place as the result of the new birth (1 John 2:29, 1 John 3:9, 1 John 4:7, 1 John 5:1, 1 John 5:18). For example in 1 John 3:9 he says, "No one [who has been] born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God." The exact same sequence of words is gramatically utilized in the same way. It is indicating a cause and effect relationship between the new birth (cause) and the Christian who does not continue in a life of sin (effect). Both show that the cause of regeneration brings about the effect of a life that does not continue sinning.

    So not only does the tense of 1 John 5:1 show belief being actualized as the result of regeneration but this is also a continuation of a pattern of speech that John uses throughout the entire epistle. Therefore it is extremely unlikely that the Apostle means anything else by this than faith is the result of our spiritual birth ... that the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit is the immediate cause of the desire that give rise to faith in the Savior. John’s frequent repetition of the events that come about as the result of regeneration reveal an unmistakable intent.

    John - Perhaps an example might be helpful:

    If I say, "George Bush goes on sleeping in the Lincoln bedroom since he has been elected president," does this prove that he has ONLY slept in the bedroom since becoming president? Certainly not. His father was preseident - maybe he slept there during his administration. Maybe he paid Clinton enough money to sleep there during his presidency. Actually, the statement doesn't tell us anything about whether he slept there before the qualifying event - only that it continues after that.

    "All the ones going on believing (pisteuon, a present tense, continuous action) that Jesus is the Christ has been born (gennesanta, perfect tense - an action already complete with abiding effects) of God," simply does not prove that we were unable to believe prior regeneration. It only states that after regeneration we have been empowered to continue believing and thus our faith is sustained through the work of God in our lives.

    So, though this verse is a great verse for preservation, it simply does not support regeneration prior to faith - in fact, nothing in Scripture does. Every occurance of life and faith in any context in Scripture always logically places faith prior to life.

    You've not proved your point here...

    Philthreeten

    Lets Look at the assertion you made: you said we do not need to Holy Spirit to believe BUT:>>> "after regeneration we have been empowered to continue believing"

    I see, so we need the Spirit of Christ after we believe to continue belief but we don't need Him when we are unregenerate to have faith to begin with. Do you see the fatal flaw in your argument? With all respect, this is hopelessly contraditctory. This is asserting, in effect that "a believer can't keep believing without the Spirit but an unbeliever, who is unspiritual, is spiritually able to believe entirely without the Holy Spirit." Do you really believe that? You may want to reconsider.

    So in your estimation we have the desire to obey God before we have the spiritual power to obey God? That the natural man can embrace Christ without the any work of the Holy Spirit? The Holy Scriptures contradict you, dear brother through and through. If you came to Christ without the Holy Spirit then I believe you also went away without Him. No one can say, 'Jesus is Lord' apart from the Holy Spirit. To say that we are able by our own efforts and draw from our own resources to think good thoughts about Christ or see the beauty and excellence of Christ, or give God spiritual obedience before we are spiritually regenerate is to overthrow the gospel and the faith of the universal church in all ages.

    Who do you think the natural man is?

    The Text says, the natural man cannot think spiritual thoughts and thinks of them as foolish, by definition (1 Cor 2:14). By nature he is hostile to Christ, loves darkness and hates the light (John 3:19, 20)

    But to the spiritual He says, "For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God." 1 Cor 2

    This text plainly states that we received that Spirit THAT WE MIGHT UNDERSTAND the free gifts of God to us, that is, the gospel.

    It is through the Spirit that Jesus makes the benefits of his saving work available in the present age (John 3:5-8; 6:63; 7:37-39) Jesus said, "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing ... For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father."

    John 6:63-65 itself clearly teaches that regeneration precedes faith. Only the Spirit gives life and so no one can believe in Christ UNLESS God grants it in the Spirit who gives life. It is the spirit quickens, not your faith. Your faith is the result of the Spirit making your stony heart flesh and opening your spiritual eyes. (also see John 1:13). The carnal man, by definition, is unspiritual, and thus does not have spiritual eyes.

    If you believe we can embrace Christ, apart from the Holy Spirit, then you have too much confidence in your flesh. Give glory to God. It is he that grants repentence (2 Tim 2:25) and enables you to believe. Can you give thanks to God for your faith or is the one thing you give yourself glory for? An unregenerate man, by definition does not have the Holy Spirit. Can a person do anything apart from Christ? Jesus says, apart from Me you can do nothing. It is the grace of God that makes you to differ from other men.

    Do you believe we have the ability to see spiritual things before we are spiritual, that we have the ability to hear spiritual things before we have the spiritual power to hear. That we can believe the gospel when we are by nature hostile to God. When something is by nature it means that we cannot be otherwise. Only God can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.

    To believe that your faith is the cause of regeneration is to believe unregenerate man to be spiritual, an impossible supposition. It is a rejection of the necessity of the Holy Spirit to change our naturally hostile nature to one that sees the beauty and excellency of Christ.

    Can an unspiritual man see Christ's beauty and excellency simply through persuasion or does he need a change of nature?

    The apostle Paul says, "brethren beloved by God, His choice of you; for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction"

    This text teaches that Paul knows they are elect BECAUSE his gospel did not come with mere words but by the power of the Holy Spirit.

    Again, do you believe a person can come to Christ apart from a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit?

    Shalom
    J.W. Hendryx

    For anyone interested, here's a really good analysis of this verse (1 John 5:1) based on James White's work:

    http://www.oldtruth.com/calvinism/blog.cfm/id.2.pid.232

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