Does Jesus himself teach that regeneration precedes faith?
Question: Does Jesus himself teach that regeneration precedes faith?
Answer: Unequivocally, yes.
â€œIt is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believeâ€¦And he said, â€˜This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Fatherâ€™â€ (John 6:63-65).
In John 6:65, Jesus says to the unbelieving Jews, â€œThis is why I told you that no one can come to me [believe in Me] unless it is granted him by the Father.â€ ...No one (universal negative) can believe the gospel, UNLESS God grants it. But in saying, â€œThis is whyâ€¦â€ Jesus is referring to the previous verse (v. 64) where He says, â€œBut there are some of you who do not believe.â€ Belief in Jesus or, as in this instance, a lack thereof is synonymous with the metaphorical idea of â€œcomingâ€ to Jesus. The phrase â€œbut there are some of you...â€ likewise refers to its own preceding verse (v. 63) where Jesus explains, â€œIt is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all.â€ Note that Jesus does not say the flesh â€“ i.e. human ability â€“ helps a little; instead, he unflinchingly declares that the flesh is no help at all (or, as some versions render the last phrase, â€œavails for nothingâ€). â€œNo help for what?â€ we ask. No help for giving â€œlife.â€ Only the Spirit gives life (that is, quickens) and it is because of the Spiritâ€™s exclusive role in giving life coupled with the fleshâ€™s inability to give life that some do not believe: â€œNo one can come to Me [believe in Me] unless God grants it.â€ Just as faith in Jesus and the metaphorical act of coming to Jesus are synonymous, so too Godâ€™s â€œgrantingâ€ the believerâ€™s coming and the Spiritâ€™s giving of spiritual life are also synonymous. In other words, unless God grants the unbeliever faith though the quickening work of the Holy Spirit, no one will come to Christ. Said negatively, those who do not come to Jesus refuse to approach him precisely because God has not â€œgrantedâ€ them to come by changing their naturally hostile disposition toward Him. He leaves them to their own boasted will. It is the Spiritâ€™s giving of life and the Fatherâ€™s granting of approach that leads from unbelief to faith and not the other way around.
Must Read Classic
"God knoweth we have nothing of ourselves, therefore in the covenant of grace he requireth no more than he giveth, and giveth what he requireth, and accepteth what he giveth." - Richard Sibbes
A central theme of The Bruised Reed is to provide comfort and assurance to flickering lights in Christ. Those who think they have, at last, lost favor with God will do well for their soul to meditate on the contents of this book. It is a great source of encouragement. Sibbes applies the healing balm of the gospel to those who lack assurance and are struggling with sin. Yet, in a masterful stroke, he does this without giving false assurance to hypocrites, that is, false believers. Like a good Reformed Puritan, he looks for that assurance, not in man, but in the unchanging character of God ... a God who is always faithful to His promises. A God who will never give up on His own until Christ is fully formed in them. â€œThe victory lies not with us, but with Christ, who has taken on him both to conquer for us and to conquer in us. The victory lies neither in our own strength to get it, nor in our enemiesâ€™ strength to defeat it. If it lay with us, we might justly fear. But Christ will maintain his own government in us and take our part against our corruptions.â€ Yet this does not lead to passivity since the Spirit uses the means of his commands and imperatives to work sanctificaiton in us. If you knew there would be a good harvest, would you then throw down the plow? â€œChrist at length will fulfill his purpose in us, and faith rests assured of it, and this assurance is very operative, stirring us up to join with Christ in his purposes.â€ Sibbesâ€™s discussion of assurance throughout The Bruised Reed is filled with penetrating insights true practical spirituality. It is ...
Can this resource serve you?
I have just set up a brand new website for the Reformation Study Center which serves the greater Phoenix, Arizona area. At this web site you will find around 70 of my articles on a number of different subjects as well as a number of guest articles. I am happy to make these available to you and hope they will prove to be a blessing in your walk with the Lord. . You will find them here - God bless you. - Rev. John Samson
A Survey of the Usage of â€œTsedek/Tsedekahâ€ in the Hebrew Old Testament
While the issue of authority no doubt underlay the Protestant Reformation, so that the basis upon which men began to question the corruption of Rome was only the â€œformal principleâ€ of sola scriptura; and while the sole weapon which the Reformers ever wielded against their doctrinal foes was the grammatico-historical hermeneutic; it is no less certain that the one great battlefield upon which the war was waged was constituted of the biblical word groups for â€œrighteousnessâ€: in the Old Testament tsedek/tsedekah, and in the New Testament dikaiosis/dikaiosune. It is no accident that the question of justification, or how a sinner may be declared righteous before a holy God, is the question to which sola scriptura must ultimately give rise: for from the beginning of the scriptures, manâ€™s plight is cast in the direst of terms, and the basic direness is the result of a lack of righteousness, and all the troubling effects to which that condition must succumb, when the righteous Judge appears upon the scene. In other words, the â€œformal principleâ€ of the Reformation, namely sola scriptura, could not but give rise to its â€œmaterial principle,â€ justification by grace alone through faith alone.
Clarifying Some Confusion About "Free Will"
Have you ever heard anyone ask something like "How do we reconcile the fact that God is sovereign but man has a free will"? We need to take a close look at the question itself because it has assumptions that may or may not be be in the Scripture.
First we must ask those who pose this question what they mean by the phrase "free will". We can reveal this simply by asking them, Free from what?... What is it that people are free from?" "Are people free from sin?", are they "Free from God's decree?" No ... in both cases people are not free. Natual people are not free from sin and there is nothing you do that takes God by surprise for He has ordained all things that come to pass (Eph 1:11) There are no maverick molecules which act independently from God, as R.C. Sproul says, where God might say "I did not know such and such would take place". Nor does anything happen by chance, as if chance were some other competing force in the universe that is outside God's control.
So what do you think people actually mean when they boldly assert man has a free will? Perhaps what persons mean to say is that man is free from external coersion. That his choices are voluntary. In this people of all sides of this issue can agree (even hard determinists), but just because someone is free in one sense (from coersion in this case) does not mean his will is free in another. He is not free from sin nor is He free to do other than what God has determined he will do. Yes, man voluntarily chooses what he will do, but this is compatible with God's sovereignty and meticulous providence (Gen 50:20; Acts 2:23).
Consider, if the natural man sins by NECESSITY (not coersion) then he also lacks freedom. The will or affections are not free from the bondage of sin. Also we must, above all, consider whether the Bible uses the expression 'freedom' to describe any fallen, unregenerate man. Since the Bible never uses this expression or even alludes to the concept that man has a free will (but actually teaches the opposite), the question originally posed has false assumptions which are alien to the text (our only authority in such matters). Here's why:
Miscommunication (Fun Stuff)
A very elegant and fashionable lady wanted to go to attend a conference at a camp site in England. She wanted to enquire about camp ground facilities, and being quite proper, she wanted to ask about toilet facilities but she didnâ€™t feel she could write the word â€œtoiletâ€ in her e-mail. It was beneath her. It was far too vulgar for her.
So she thought, â€œIâ€™ll use an old fashioned term, bathroom commode.â€ So in her e-mail she asked, â€œdoes the camp ground have a bathroom commode?â€
Then after writing that she thought, â€œI canâ€™t write that. That is still too vulgar,â€ so she said, â€œIâ€™ll just use the initials B.C.â€ (for bathroom commode)... so she wrote, â€œdoes the camp ground have a B.C.?â€
Now, the camp ground owner in England received the e-mail, and sadly, he has not got a clue what sheâ€™s talking about. So he calls his staff in and asks if any of them know what she is refering to, and none of them has a clue what B.C. means either.
Well, after much discussion, they finally agree that B.C. refers to the local Baptist Church. So here comes the reply:
I regret the delay in answering your e-mail, but I now take pleasure in informing you that a B.C. is located 9 miles north of the camp ground, and it is capable of seating 250 people at a time. I realize that this is quite a distance away if you are in the habit of going regularly, but you will be pleased to know that a great number of people take their lunches along and make a day of it. They usually arrive early and stay late.
The last time my wife and I went was 6 years ago. It was so crowded, we had to stand up the whole time we were there. I understand that right now there is a plan to raise more money to buy more seats.
I would like to say that it pains me very much not to be able to go more regularly but it surely is no lack of desire on my part. It seems as we grow older, it seems to be more of an effort, particularly in cold weather.
If you decide to come to our camp ground, perhaps I could go with you the first time you go, sit with you and introduce you to all the other people. We have a very friendly community.
Camp Ground Owner
Winner of Monergism T-Shirt Contest
Congratulations to Jake Stutzman, the winner of the Monergism.com T-Shirt design contest of 2007. While there were many well-designed entries, Jake's design, we believe, best captured the spirit of our website. The concept of monergistic regeneration, as many of you know, is a Christ-centered, biblically derived concept, a doctrine which pervades the Scripture. And we really like the verses chosen by Jake and believe those who wear the shirt will have ample opportunity to give glory to God by giving testimony to onlookers who will want to know more about God's grace in Christ towards sinners...
As far as the other designs, there were a couple of very good runner-ups including the other baby blue 5 solas design (also by Jake) and the Luther and five solas shirtÂ by Matt Johnson .Â Since these other designs are also very good and affirmed by many others, we have considered that, at a later time, we may wish to work out something with the designers of those designs for shirts as well. We wish we could print them all now but there is a investment to be made in printing them up and, more importantly, there is only one winner of this contest.
Again, congratulations to Jake for his excellent design. We hope to get these printed up in the very near future.
Images of the Savior (34 â€“ His Giving Sight to the Man Born Blind)
Throughout Israel's history God had done many marvelous works in her behalf, sending to her his prophets and miracle-workers, who brought down bread from heaven (Exodus 16:4), subdued the bitterness of death-bearing poisons (II Kings 2:19-22; 4:38-41), stopped the mouths of lions (Daniel 6:16-23), and even raised the dead (II Kings 4:32-37). But there was one miracle so astounding in its divine potency, and so indicative of the true essence of the Messianic accomplishment, that it had never before been performed in sacred history, but only promised as a sign of the final age of blessing, in which the Christ should bring the very Kingdom of God to earth; and that sign was, the giving of sight to the congenitally blind (Isaiah 35:4-5; 42:6-7). As we look to this next account, therefore, we may encounter as clear a glimpse of the person of Christ in his Messianic office as any of his miracles are able to unveil before our eyes. Spirit of God, do not let us come away unravished from this text! Lead us to the Sun of Righteousness, where we might bathe our dark and sorrowing souls in the glory of the Light divine! As sunflowers that ever turn their faces full to the sun of their love, let us turn now our hearts to the light of glory, which beams from the face of the Son of God. In order to do so, we will consider, first, what it means that Jesus is the Light of the World; second, how it is that he accomplishes his Messianic task of bringing light to the world; and third, the diverse effects that this work of light-bringing has upon various classes of people in the world.
Monergism T-Shirt Design Contest Finalists
Have a good look at these over the weekend. We will tell you who the winner is early next week. Feel free to comment on the blog if you like any of them.
John Hendryx Interviews Dr. Steven J. Lawson
Last week at the Christian Booksellers Association conference in Altanta Georgia, Dr. Steven Lawson (Pastor and author of Foundations of Grace and The Expository Genius of John Calvin) was gracious enough to grant me an interview. We sat in a coffee shop for a couple of hours and I was edified to hear his obvious passion for our Lord. Our time together gave me great encouragement and I left him with a few questions he could reflect on and get back to me with.
The Dangers of the Therapeutic Gospel
I just read an incredibly good article on "the therapeutic gospel" at the 9marks web site by David Powlison. It shows the state of the church in general (the bad news) but points the way forward towards a new reformation in preaching. It has stirred me up no end. God wants His pulpit back. You will find the article here. - John Samson
Photography- C. R. Biggs
Every pastor has a hobby, and mine is photography. If you're interested, I would love to share my gallery of photos with you.
Children of the Day
Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, â€œThere is peace and security,â€ then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
"The day of the Lord" (5.2) is a strong theme in Scripture. Paul has much to say about this Day in his letters to the Thessalonians, the Day when Jesus Christ will return at the end of history to judge the living and the dead. The Greek word parousia (coming or presence) occurs six times in these two short letters with reference to the Second Coming, which is a quarter of the total usages in the New Testament.
Generally speaking, the Old Testament references to the Day of the Lord were not comforting thoughts (Is. 13.6, 9; Jer. 46.10; Ezek. 30.3; Joel 2; Amos 5.18-20; Obad. 15; Zeph. 1). The Day of the LORD (YHWH, God's covenant name) is a day of judgment against sinâ€¦ the sins of the nations and the sins of God's people. Doom and gloom. Wrath and destruction. Great and awesome and unendurable.
Pelagianism in the Formation and Reformation of the Church- C. R. Biggs
Pelagianism in the Formation and Reformation of the Church
By the middle of the second century, the Christian Church had developed the Apostle's Creed which contained the foundational doctrines, or essential beliefs of the Church.
In the 4th century, the doctrines of the Trinity and the two natures of Christ had been established at the Councils of Nicea in 325 AD, Ephesus in 431 AD, and Chalcedon in 451 AD. The doctrine of soteriology however, or the doctrine of salvation and grace had not been clearly and systematically established until the Augustine and the Pelagian controversy in the 5th century in the West.
Images of the Savior (33 â€“ His Teaching at the Feast of Tabernacles)
Of all the gospel-blessings and benefits that were given to Israel in ancient times, so as to distinguish them from all the other nations of the world as the people upon whom God had set his special, elective love, one of the greatest was the joyful feasts and celebrations that it was enjoined upon them to observe, coming up to Jerusalem three times a year for a solemn and joy-filled assembly. These feasts were a bountiful and merciful gift of God both in that they contained within the manner of their observance a rich instruction of things pertaining to the coming of Christ, and the redemptive blessings that he should provide for his people; and also, in that they provided a foretaste, as it were, of these blessings themselves, as all the people of God were enabled therein to cast off the cares of this cursed world, for a time, and rejoice together in unity before the God of their salvation. Will not the consummation of all things be an anti-type of these joyful feasts, in which all God's people from every nation of the world rejoices together in the presence of Christ their Savior, and feasts upon the rich banquet that their heavenly Father has provided for them (see Isaiah 25:6-12)? And it is a further point that the most joyful feast, and one of the most richly instructive in gospel truths, was the last great feast of the year, that of Tabernacles. As we turn to our next account, therefore, we must first labor to understand the symbolism of this feast, and how Christ intimates that it is fulfilled in him; and then to notice in brief the basic heads of the message that he was proclaiming at this feast.
Intown Leadership Training Curriculum
The Intown Bookshelf
This is a list of resources that Intown Presbyterian Church (PCA) Portland believes are helpful for a given area of study. None of these resources are exhaustive; much more could be said about the topic. However, these books stand out because they are clear, concise, and rely upon a good bibliography that can take you deeper.
Note that these books are an important part of Intown Presbyterian Church's (PCA) new leadership training curriculum:
Man never achieves a clear knowledge of himself unless...
Again, it is certain that man never achieves a clear knowledge of himself unless he has first looked upon God's face, and then descends from contemplating him to scrutinize himself. For we always seem to ourselves righteous and upright and wise and holy -- this pride is innate in all of us -- unless by clear proofs we stand convinced of our own unrighteousness, foulness, folly, and impurity. Moreover, we are not thus convinced if we look merely to ourselves and not also to the Lord, who is the sole standard by which this judgment must be measured. For, because all of us are inclined by nature to hypocrisy, a kind of empty image of righteousness in place of righteousness itself abundantly satisfies us. And because nothing appears within or around us that has not been contaminated by great immorality, what is a little less vile pleases us as a thing most pure -- so long as we confine our minds within the limits of human corruption. Just so, an eye to which nothing is shown but black objects judges something dirty white or even rather darkly mottled to be whiteness itself. Indeed, we can discern still more clearly from the bodily senses how much we are deluded in estimating the powers of the soul. For if in broad daylight we either look down upon the ground or survey whatever meets our view round about, we seem to ourselves endowed with the strongest and keenest sight; yet when we look up to the sun and gaze straight at it, that power of sight which was particularly strong on earth is at once blunted and confused by a great brilliance, and thus we are compelled to admit that our keenness in looking upon things earthly is sheer dullness when it comes to the sun. So it happens in estimating our spiritual goods. As long as we do not look beyond the earth, being quite content with our own righteousness, wisdom, and virtue, we flatter ourselves most sweetly, and fancy ourselves all but demigods. Suppose we but once begin to raise our thoughts to God, and to ponder his nature, and how completely perfect are his righteousness, wisdom, and power -- the straightedge to which we must be shaped. Then, what masquerading earlier as righteousness was pleasing in us will soon grow filthy in its consummate wickedness. What wonderfully impressed us under the name of wisdom will stink in its very foolishness. What wore the face of power will prove itself the most miserable weakness. That is, what in us seems perfection itself corresponds ill to the purity of God. (John Calvin, Institutes I:I:2)
Images of the Savior (32 â€“ His Teaching on Life in the Kingdom)
Among all peoples, they who are considered greatest in a kingdom or government are they who are in the most prominent positions, who command great honor and respect, and who use their authority to exercise dominion over all those beneath them (see Matthew 20:25-27). It was a most natural circumstance, therefore, that the disciples who had heard so much of Jesus' Kingdom would begin to dispute and argue among themselves as to who should hold the highest position in this Kingdom, sitting at the right hand of Jesus when he ascended to the throne of David (Mark 9:33-34; 10:35-37). But Jesus' Kingdom was not to be like the kingdoms of men; for in the wonder of divine wisdom, the greatest glory is gained through the deepest humility, and the most selfless and lowly servant is indeed the highest of all. The King of kings won his throne through the emptying of himself, taking on the form of a servant, and being found obedient unto death, even the shameful death of the cross (Philippians 2:5-11). But if even the all-glorious Son of Man â€œcame not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life as a ransom for manyâ€ (Mark 10:45), then what sort of men ought his followers to be? Let us take these truths to heart, and be attentive to the richly instructive words of Christ, as he takes the opportunity of this dispute among the disciples to open up to us the mystery of the Kingdom, the way in which it is ever to be entered, and the manner in which life within its borders is to be conducted.
A Thought on Penal Substitution
It is a tragedy of the highest degree that so many theologians today are emphasizing such models of the atoning work of the Savior as Christus Victor to the minimization of penal substitution. The tragedy is not that the reality of Christ's conquering Satan through his work on the cross is acknowledged or even emphasized, but rather that this idea is passed off to some degree as mutually exclusive of his bearing his people's sins, and undergoing the just wrath of the Father in their place. The Serpent's enmity against God has ever been waged in terms of tempting his children to sin, and thus barring them from his holy presence; and the final defeat of the enemy was won by a Substitute who found a way to reconcile them again to God, without compromising his righteousness. The weapon which destroyed the forces of darkness is only the spear which pierced Jesus' side as he hung upon the cross in the place of his people. Take that weapon away, and you may talk all you want to of how Jesus won a victory against Satan on the cross, but the victory becomes nothing but hollow words. I can't help but think that the Devil laughs at all those who make a great show of announcing his defeat, but forget the sin-bearing nature of the Lamb of God, who took away the sin of the world by being lifted up as a curse. But mention Golgotha as the place where the Messiah bore the wrath of God, and in our place was lifted up to die, and he must flee in terror, acknowledging his final failure to accomplish his antagonistic designs. Jesus made an open show of the rulers of darkness, triumphing over them by his blood, when he took the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, and nailed it to the cross (Colossians 2:14-15). That is what we must ultimately emphasize, or we have cut away the very foundation of every other claim that we might make about what transpired on Calvary.
Joseph Smith, founder of Mormonism exposed? You decide...
This award-winning documentary film investigates the story behind a volume of Mormon scripture called the Book of Abraham. The story is that Mormon founder Joseph Smith translated it from an ancient Egyptian papyrus scroll he purchased from an antiquities dealer in 1835. The Lost Book of Abraham visits prominent Egyptologists and other scholars â€“ both Mormon and non-Mormon â€“ to learn the truth behind this fascinating episode in Mormon history. The full video is now on YouTube, here . Given the current discussions of Mormonism, this is very useful. Here's the info on how to obtain it in DVD format.
Images of the Savior (31 â€“ His Transfiguration)
The great mystery of the work of redemption, and the matchless wonder of the Redeemer himself, consists of the diverse excellencies displayed to infinite degrees in the accomplishment of the work. Consider into what depths of humility Christ plummeted, as he followed his Father's will to purchase back a people from their unimaginably deep sin and rebellion: he, the infinitely high and happy God, took on human form, lived a life subject to all human weaknesses and temptations, suffered rejection, despite, shame, and mockery at the hands of his creatures, and bore in his own body the full mass of putrid sin which we had heaped up to heaven, together with the full cup of the Father's holy wrath against this sin. This is humility inexpressible and illimitable! But consider what great glory he has won through such ignoble means: he has won the greatest victory in all the history of the world, against the greatest enemy of all that is good and right who has ever had existence â€“ that old Serpent, the devil. He has fully displayed the infinitely glorious and diverse majesty of the invisible Godhead, whom no man has ever seen, in such a manner that the weakest of men might see God's true form and glorify him. He has won a people for his everlasting inheritance, and wrought the unspeakable work of making them who had been horribly disfigured and marred into the very image of himself, and a spotless and pure bride. And he has done what by all accounts should be impossible for the infinitely glorious God to do; he has gained a glory which did not inhere in the Godhead before, and obtained a name which did not previously belong to him; for the glory of Mediator, Redeemer, Perfect Man, Immanuel, and, in short, Jesus, who saves his people from their sins, did not from eternity belong to the Godhead; but in consequence of the perfect work of the Christ, the new and glorious name Jesus has been added to the eternal and glorious name Yahweh, in the person of the eternal Son of God â€“ for is this not what is expressed in the words of Paul: â€œWherefore, God also has highly exalted him and given him the name which is above ever name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things on the earth and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Fatherâ€ (Philippians 2:9-11)? In our next account, that of the transfiguration of Jesus before his disciples, we see the first glimpse of the infinitely high glory which should adhere to Jesus in consequence of the infinitely low position to which he stooped, contrary to all human reason or expectation.
Monergism T-Shirt Design Contest
Monergism T-Shirt Design Contest - for Graphic Artists: June 20th - July 20th 2007
The goal of this contest is to create a T-Shirt with a Reformational theme. A secondary goal is to create a design that visitors to Monergism will want to wear. The concept could be something as simple as designing a cool looking image with a specific Bible Text, the five solas, the five points of Calvinism, or a focus in on one specific point like effectual grace (John 6:63-64, 37) or bondage of the will and can include attendant images and biblical text that help communicate that theme. Our previous T-shirt designs, the Monergism John Calvin T, and the Particular Redemption T were both designed with these principles in mind but were created in-house. We now want to put the challenge to you. The top design contenders will have their designs posted and displayed for all to see and the winning design will be printed up and carried by our online store.