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.