Things that Irk J.W. Hendryx
"Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God." - 1 John 5:1
There are few things that irk me more than bad or inconsistent theology. This is because it amounts to a misrepresentation of God and his message, and, as we know, all wrong thinking about God is a form of idolatry. No doubt we are all guilty of having wrong thoughts about God at some level and thus should humbly acknowledge God's grace for anything we have and not boast in our knowledge or anything else ... but when persons, who should know better, begin presenting God's grace as a cooperative effort of man and God, where unspiritual man is presented as possessing spiritual capacities, then contradictions abound. Unfortunately, this kind of synergism is perhaps the the most pervasive cause of error and confusion in the church today.
Charles Hodge said,""No more soul-destroying doctrine could well be devised than the doctrine that sinners can regenerate themselves, and repent and believe just when they please... As it is a truth both of Scripture and of experience that the unrenewed man can do nothing of himself to secure his salvation, it is essential that he should be brought to practical conviction of that truth. When thus convinced, and not before, he seeks help from the only source whence it can be obtained."
C.H. Spurgeon said, "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." (from His sermon Faith and Regeneration)
Just recently Pastor John Samson did a post reflecting on 1 John 5:1 where he briefly exegeted the passage as clearly teaching that faith is the immediate result of regeneration, not the cause of it. However, a reader took exception to this and said the following:
"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."
This misunderstanding of the doctrine of regeneration, I believe, is one of the most serious errors of modern evangelicalism. Please note again an admission this person made about the passage in the above statement. He said:
"[This] 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."
Consider, he (and many others) acknowledge that we need the Spirit of Christ after we believe in order to continue belief in Christ but he rejects the concept that we need the Holy Spirit to have faith to begin with. I hope you see the fatal flaw in this argument and that this is hopelessly contradictory. This is asserting, in effect, that a believer cannot keep believing without the Spirit, but an unbeliever, who is unspiritual by nature, is spiritually able to believe, yet entirely without the grace of the Holy Spirit." Do you think any Christian really believes that?
Of this kind of thinking Charles Hodge rightly said:
"It is according to the universal ... judgement of men that the moral character of an act depends upon the motive with which it is done. This is so obviously true that [synergists], and almost all other advocates of the liberty of indifference, readily admit ... And so do the advocates of the theory on which this objection is founded, with regard to all moral acts excepting the first. All acts of choice, to be holy, must proceed from a holy motive, excepting the first holy choice which constitutes regeneration: that may be made from the mere desire of happiness or self-love [to a synergist]...We confess that this strikes us as very much like a relinquishment of the whole system. For how is it conceivable that anything should be essential to the very nature of one act as holy, that is not necessary to another? Is not this saying that that on which the very nature of a thing depends may be absent, and yet the thing remain the same? Is it not saying that that which makes an act what it is and gives it its character, may be wanting or altered, and yet the character of he act be unaffected?...It is the motive which gives the moral character to the act. If the motive is good, the act is good; if the motive is bad, the act is bad; if the motive is indifferent, so is the act. The act has no character apart from the motive This, it seems, is admitted with regard to all moral acts excepting the first [in synergist theology]. But the first act of a holy kind is an act of obedience, as well as all subsequent acts of the same kind. How then is it conceivable that the first act of obedience performed from the mere desire or self-love can be holy, when no other act of the same kind and performed from the same motive, either is or can be? How does its being first alter it very nature? It is still nothing more than as act done for self-gratification, and cannot be a holy act."
So in the visitors' 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 any work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Scriptures contradict this through and through. If someone comes to Christ without the Holy Spirit then I believe he also went away without Him. No one can say, 'Jesus is Lord' apart from the Holy Spirit, so says the Text of Scripture. To say that we are able, by our own efforts and 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.
Consider who the natural man actually 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). He doesn't merely need to be persuaded of his sinfulness and need of Christ, he needs a new heart and the mind of Christ to understand and have the disposition to believe it.
Consider where the Text 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 passage plainly states that we received that Spirit THAT WE MIGHT UNDERSTAND the free gifts of God to us, that is, that we might know and understand the gospel. Without the Spirit, Christ is unknowable.
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) This itself clearly teaches that the grace of regeneration precedes our faith. Only the Spirit gives life, it says, and so no one can believe in Christ UNLESS God grants it by the same Spirit who gives life. It is the spirit who quickens, not our faith. Our faith is the infallible result of the Spirit making our stony heart into a heart of flesh and opening our spiritual eyes (also see John 1:13 & John 3:3-6). The carnal man, by definition, is unspiritual, and thus does not have spiritual eyes. We should never use the word spiritual in a pagan way. Scripturally, no one is spiritual unless the Holy Spirit works grace in us. Naturally, all people are UNspiritual.
If our visitor believes we can embrace Christ, apart from the Holy Spirit, then he has too much confidence in the flesh. We should Give glory to God. It is He alone that grants repentance (2 Tim 2:25) and enables us to believe (Rom 9:16; Eph 2:1-9). Can you give thanks to God for your faith or is the one thing we can glory in ourselves for? Jesus says, "apart from Me you can do nothing." It is the grace of God that makes us to differ from others, not our faith. Do not boast in faith but in the grace of God!
Those who believe faith precedes regeneration 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 spiritual ears. That we can desire Christ and believe the gospel when we are by nature hostile to God.
What does it mean when we are a certain thing by nature? A cat has whiskers by nature and no amount of willing can change that. Likewise we are naturally in bondage to a corruption of nature, slaves to sin and thus cannot be otherwise unless God intervenes to change who we are. Only God can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. To believe that our faith is the cause of (or precedes) regeneration is to believe unregenerate, unspiritual man to be spiritual, an impossibly contradictory 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. J. I. Packer said, "Infants do not induce, or cooperate in, their own procreation and birth; no more can those who are 'dead in trespasses and sins' prompt the quickening operation of God's Spirit within them."
Can an unspiritual man see Christ's beauty and excellency simply through persuasion or does he need a change of nature, a new set of eyes and a new heart?
The apostle Paul in 1 Thess 1:4,5 says, "For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, 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. This is because words alone and unaided do not even scratch the surface of stony hearts. Consider, is it possible for a person to come to (i.e. believe in) Christ apart from a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit?
Now, just for a moment,we should end by returning to the passage itself:
"Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God." - 1 John 5:1
It is important to note not only Pastor John's excellent point that He who now believes (both present and continuously) does so because they were born again. But also take notice that several times in this same epistle, John speaks of other actions that take place as the result of the new birth and uses the same grammar he uses here (1 John 2:29, 1 John 3:9, 1 John 4:7, 1 John 5:1, 1 John 5:18). A pattern is developing in John's writing. 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 grammatically 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). He cannot continue a pattern of sin BECAUSE God's seed abides in Him. He would go on sinning if God's seed did not abide in Him, in other words. Both texts show that the cause of regeneration brings about the effect of a life that believes and does not continue sinning as a pattern of life.
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. Johnâ€™s frequent repetition of the events that come about as the result of regeneration reveal an unmistakable intent.
And as I have shown above, the Bible does teach this doctrine but, as is natural, people still wish to retain a small bastion of pride for themselves that they had something to do with their salvation.
A Simple Explanation of Monergism by John Hendryx
A Divine and Supernatural Light A Sermon by Jonathan Edwards
The Work of the Trinity in Monergism by John Hendryx
Salvation: Synergism or Sola Gratia? Charlie Martin
Responsibility, Inability and Monergistic Grace by John Hendryx