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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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  • « Must Read Classic | Main | The source and remedy for conflict »

    Does Jesus himself teach that regeneration precedes faith?

    Question: Does Jesus himself teach that regeneration precedes faith?
    Answer: Unequivocally, yes.

    “It 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 believe…And he said, ‘This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father’” (John 6:63-65).

    In John 6:65, Jesus says to the unbelieving Jews, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me [believe in Me] unless it is granted him by the Father.” ...No one (universal negative) can believe the gospel, UNLESS God grants it. But in saying, “This is why…” Jesus is referring to the previous verse (v. 64) where He says, “But there are some of you who do not believe.” Belief in Jesus or, as in this instance, a lack thereof is synonymous with the metaphorical idea of “coming” to Jesus. The phrase “but there are some of you...” likewise refers to its own preceding verse (v. 63) where Jesus explains, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all.” Note that Jesus does not say the flesh – i.e. human ability – helps a little; instead, he unflinchingly declares that the flesh is no help at all (or, as some versions render the last phrase, “avails for nothing”). “No help for what?” we ask. No help for giving “life.” Only the Spirit gives life (that is, quickens) and it is because of the Spirit’s exclusive role in giving life coupled with the flesh’s inability to give life that some do not believe: “No one can come to Me [believe in Me] unless God grants it.” Just as faith in Jesus and the metaphorical act of coming to Jesus are synonymous, so too God’s “granting” the believer’s coming and the Spirit’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 “granted” them to come by changing their naturally hostile disposition toward Him. He leaves them to their own boasted will. It is the Spirit’s giving of life and the Father’s granting of approach that leads from unbelief to faith and not the other way around.

    Read a more in-depth essay on this topic here

    Posted by John on July 31, 2007 06:46 PM

    Comments

    i think you make an excellent pt. there is no question that Jesus speaks of the necessity of grace before faith. but i think that this doesnt necessarily imply that there is limited calling on God's part. in fact, Jesus continues saying, "They will all be taught by God." this seems to say that its fully God's calling, but some people will reject His call.

    this obviously isnt in agreement with irresistible grace, but is irresistible grace Scriptural?

    peter

    Peter:

    Thank you for your comments and inquiry.

    The post was written to demonstrate not merely that grace precedes faith, but that regeneration (the new birth) precedes faith. You would agree, I assume, there are no regenerate (i.e. born again) unbelievers. I believe I demonstrated that in this passage Jesus is speaking of the new birth, not just grace. If they are born again by the Spirit then they simultaneously and infalliby come to faith. The Spirit gives life (quickens) it says, not just grants some generic grace but actually gives life which Jesus says, is a necessary prerequisite for faith to exist at all. The text says that no one believes in Christ unless that Father grants it through this regeneration. Even by itself this text would make grace irrisistible since all who are born again, are believers.

    Aslo, if you will, please demonstrate how v 65 & 37 allow for anything but irresistible grace? v 37 says All that the father gives to Jesus will believe in Him and v 65 no one can believe unless God grants it. Here is a universal positive and universal negative. Said plainly ... no one believes in Jesus unless God grants it and all to whom God grants it will believe. He leaves no room for human boasting.

    Next, you mentioned v 44, 45 which was not the text we were exegeting and actually has no bearing on the truth or falsehood of vr 63-65 & 37. These texts stand alone and prove irresistible grace without verse 44, 45. But if you wish to include them, they acctually help the case for IR ....there may be something you overlooked:

    Notice in v 44 that ALL THE PERSONS who God draws are the same persons that He raises up at the last day. "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day." Raise him up? WHO? The persons God draws, that's who.
    In other words, all persons who God calls in this way, without exception, will believe to Christ in faith and be resurrected in Him. This is irresistible grace.

    you noted the following text ...' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me—

    But this is the same truth said in a different way. Not everyone hears and learns. It does not say, ALL PERSONS in the world but says "everyone who" which excludes those who do not. And the context again demands that the "they" is understood as the same ones God draws - not everyone in the world. Those God draws to Himself and will be resurrected at the last day in Christ. They are the same as those who are taught by God.

    There is an outward calling and and inward calling. God commands all persons to repent and believe the gospel (outward). But all persons can and do resist this kind of calling. The Spirit may tug at their heart and convict of sin but only when he chooses to make his calling irresistible, it will be.

    Here is a Text which demonstrates both types of calling:

    1 Co 1:21
    "...it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

    Many are called outwardly through the gospel, Jews and gentiles, but according to this passage, they resist this calling, folly and a stmubling block, but those who are called [by God] are renewed

    This passage unambiguously show that people resist the Holy Spirit's influence until He decides work to change the heart of stone to a heart of flesh.

    Can a persons come to Christ apart from the Holy Spirit changing the disposition of the heart? Not just grace before faith but a grace which saves. Otherwise, why do you think one persons believes the gospel and not another? Does he have more natural wisdom that his neighbor? Is he more spiritual by nature?

    Either we are saved by Jesus Christ alone or it is Christ plus something else. This leaves you something to boast of ... that it is not grace alone that saves you but grace plus a good heart.

    God's love is unconditional, not conditioned upon whether you are smart enough or not. He makes certain his own are saved, in spite of themselves. His love is not conditioned upon whether have a good will. Christ does for us what we were unable to do for ourselves.

    If you did not read the article which follows
    http://www.reformationtheology.com/2005/11/the_jesus_syllogism.php

    Great post...
    Can you explain what kind of faith did Abraham or Joshua possess? What kind of "regeneration" did they have that enabled them to believe? Or maybe the better question is how were they enabled to believe without the indwelling Spirit? I may not be looking at this clearly but any help here would be appreciated.

    Hi Steve

    Thanks for your excellent question. Human nature is no different in the OT or the NT. Man has a heart of stone and is hostile to God until God does a work of grace in him, changing the disposition of his heart. Only God can remove the heart of stone and make it a heart of flesh.

    I would argue that in general it was not "in" but "with" in the Ot (Judge 3:10; Judges 11:29; 1 Sam 10:6; 1 Sam 16:13; Num 24:2-3). Jesus said to his disciples before he was ascended, the Holy Spirit who is with you and will be in you.

    As for OT regeneration....

    Deut 30:6 says ... And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.

    Loving God is not part of the unregenrate nature, so apart from this spiritual circumcision referred to in Deut, no one would naturally love God.

    IN Psalm 18 David prays, 28"For it is you who light my lamp; the LORD my God lightens my darkness."

    Apart from God's torch, the wick on our lamp remains without fire. God must first light it if it is to burn. We do not create fire ourselves, in other words. The Spirit must light the wick, so to speak.

    People in the old testament also had the indwelling of the Spirit, particularly Prophets, priests and kings. But regeneration is not the same as indwelling. it is a removal and renewal of the heart. They are closely related but we should not confuse them. It is the inauguration of the Spirit's work in a man. but perons who believed in the OT were also partakers of Christ. Everything they did pointed to Him. We simply know more fulness than they. The perfection came with Christ (Heb 11:40)that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

    Thanks so much for that clear and forceful way of putting into words what the sheep are trying to say;

    One way I believe R preceding F is illustrated is in John 9. Take the chapter as a whole. Jesus declares the purpose for the man's being born blind (Christ's glory), then heals the man (BEFORE asking him to accept sight into his eyes by his free will - winkwink) and then the man, with a very limited knowledge of what is happening, grasps on to this knowledge and assents to it and trusts it with all his heart (9:25) and only later does Jesus fully reveal His identity.

    Hello,

    I believe what you are saying, that a spiritually dead person cannot have faith or the ability to realize that they need a savior, so your only conclusion is that they need to be regenerated before they have faith and confess their sins, and then they are saved. So in a way they are born again before faith.

    I'm not suggesting that they have faith first, but this does not seem to jive with my own conversion.

    Before I was saved I rejected everyone that tried to witness to me. Then one day when I was 19 Tim wanted to talk to me about Christ, I didn't push him away like I did to everybody else.

    Looking back now I know this was God’s doing and was monergistic.

    Two weeks later Tim asked me if I believed, I said yes but I was not ready yet, I wanted to go have some fun first (in a sinful way) then I will confess my sins.

    Tim said that I was committing a terrible sin by tempting the Lord, so I left and moped around depressed for about two weeks.

    After the conviction of my sin was to great for me to handle I confessed my sin to the Lord, at this time I was in bed so I fell a sleep. When I woke up I could tell I was changed and I was a new creature in the Lord, I was no longer depressed and I had a desire to know my Lord better so I dove into the word and have been studying it regularly now for 24 years.

    So it seems that I was not regenerated (born again) until I confessed my sins, which is in line with what Rom 10:10 says.

    Also, I know that the Lord did something to my heart in order for me to listen to Tim, but it does not appear that I was really regenerated until I confessed my sins.

    Do you see what I’m saying it's confusing sometimes?

    Troy

    Hi Troy

    Thanks for your statements...

    you said >>>>So it seems that I was not regenerated (born again) until I confessed my sins, which is in line with what Rom 10:10 says.

    So, in other words, you know that it was not the Holy Spirit who humbled you, but rather your humble confession was your own doing? so you did this apart from the grace of Christ to change your heart? This leave you reason to boast over others who did not humble themselves. Rather it is the grace of God in Christ alone which changed you.

    The carnal (unregenerate) man is proud by nature, and only a work of grace will change his heart of stone to one of flesh. i.e. one that sees its own sin. The Holy Spirit uses the means of the law and the gospel to 'germinate' the seed of life in you. The law is for the proud so he can see that he has fallen short of it. But only the Spirit changing a man's heart can see this. You appear to claim to know when the Holy Spirit worked in you. But It is impossible for you to see the inner workings of the Holy Spirit in your heart, so I fail to see how your experience contradicts this? John 3 says the Spirit is like the wind, you do not where it is coming or going, so is it with everyone born of the Spirit. i.e. the Spirit is sovereign and will englighten whom He will. We have no capacity to know when this has happened. We only know it by its effects -- that we believe. confession, repentance and belief are the effect of the work of the Spirit not the cause.

    It is the Spirit that convicts of sin, not the flesh. 1 Cor says that the unspiritual man (that is, the man without the Spirit or unregenerate man) cannot understand spiritual things and thinks them foolish. Only as the Spirit works the grace of Christ in the heart and illumiunes the eyes, i.e. regenerates - only then will He believe. Unless you are born again you will not see or enter the kingdom. Salvation is a supernatural work from first to last. Repentance and faith are the gift of God (2 Tim 2:25), as He changes the heart from one of hostility to God to one of affection for Christ.

    As a test for yourself, you may wish to answer the following question(s): If the Holy Spirit gave you and your friend the same grace to believe why did you believe and not your friend? Was it by nature? Were you more wise? more spiritually sensitive than your friend? or was it grace alone that made you to differ? Is it Jesus Christ or something in you that made you to differ?

    If it is because of your own will that you repent and believe then God's love is conditional and it based on some merit He sees in you, that is, a good will. Such is the error of semi-pelagianism.

    Ask yourself in light of Scripture, did God save you because he saw a good will (or sincerity) in you or because of Christ's mercy alone?

    Shalom
    John

    Hello John,

    Thank you for your Comments.

    Of course the Holy Spirit humbled me and changed my heart in order for me to believe and see my sin, I did nothing, the Holy Spirit caused me to repent.

    I agree with what your saying, what I meant was that it was hard for me to see how the salvation process worked in me when it appeared that I was not saved until I confessed my sins.

    I understand how it worked now, The Holy Spirit gave me a heart of flesh and the ability to believe and know that I was a lost sinner, which is regeneration. So when Tim came to confront me with my sin and confess it, the salvation process would be completed according to Rom 10:10.

    If the Holy Spirit would not of regenerated my heart then I would of pushed Tim away just like every body else.

    Thank the Lord for helping me understand how my salvation worked.

    Troy

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