"...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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  • « How Do I Know I am Elect by A.W. Pink | Main | Book Review: The Shepherd Leader, by Timothy Z. Witmer »

    I asked a Greek Scholar (1 John 5:1 & John 20:31)

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

    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).

    Now compare this with John 20:30 - Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

    Dr. James White is a friend of mine and is an outstanding New Testament scholar. He is a critical consultant for the New American Standard Bible and has taught Greek at the seminary level. I called into James’ Dividing Line program this week and asked a question. I was particularly interested in what he would derive from the biblical text. Please bear in mind that this was a live discussion and therefore James is not answering by reading a prepared response. It was all “on the fly” so to speak. If this was normally to be put into printed form there would be major editing and adjustments for the sake of clarity, yet I believe there is such very good insight here that the transcript of our conversation would still be useful. I have just slightly edited the conversation (but only very slightly) for the sake of understanding.. I trust it will be a blessing (below) – John Samson

    John S – “Regarding the ordo salutis (order of salvation) how would you compare 1 John 5:1, where clearly regeneration precedes faith, with John 20:31, where it reads, “…by believing, you may have life in his name.”

    Dr. White – “I think its important to point out that my emphasis in 1 John 5:1 has always been not so much attempting to establish some type of temporal order but a logical order and that John’s point is that the exercise of saving faith – the person who has saving faith (that present tense ha pisteuon) is so important in the Johannine corpus – its there in John 5, its there in John 6 and that is his shorthand for “real believers.” The one believing in Me will have eternal life… The one believing in Me will not hunger and thirst, and so on and so forth.. and so, the point is that THAT kind of believing is dependant upon divine action, and that divine action is that bringing to spiritual life.

    Here in John 20:31 these things have been written in order that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah), the Son of God and (so this is continuing the reason its been written, in order that believing (present tense participle).. but since this is where it is here, I would take this as a participle being used as MEANS) – in order that by believing (Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God) you would have life in his name.

    So its not even talking about ha pisteuon or anything like that – it’s a hina clause

    Note - a hina clause is used to express “in order that” or “so that” as in John 3:16 where God’s love for the word is seen by the giving of His only Son – hina – SO THAT, or IN ORDER THAT .. all the ones who believe will not perish but have eternal life.

    So its not even talking about ha pisteuon or anything like that – it’s a hina clause with the present active participle being utilized in EXPLAINING the transition here – and the transition is “and by means of believing you have life in his name.”

    Now if someone were to say “having life in his name is the same thing as gegennetai (begotten, regeneration)"... but zoen ekete – that is normally used in the context of having eternal life – and that is a present possession of the one who is ha pisteuon (John 5, John 6, places like that) – so it would be significantly less possible to try to derive some kind of an order out of a hina clause that is basically saying – “I’ve written these things that you might believe this FACT (that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God) and in order that when you believe that, by believing that, you would have life in his name."

    All of this is stating the purposes – you have two hina clauses there – in the first part of v. 31 tauta de gegraptai hina – in order that you might believe AND in order that believing you may have life in his name – so both are just explaining WHY it is that John has written these particular words – which interestingly enough goes on – well, a lot of people say this sounds like the end of the book – but then you have chapter 21 tacked on at the end – and so they go on from there.

    So it would be very difficult to attempt to create some kind of ordo salutis out of hina clauses in order as to why a book was written. But if someone was to say “well having life in his name” – the problem is – the particular verb that is used here is in the subjunctive and once you leave the indicative, doing stuff with subjunctive with hina clauses and establishing time parameters and orders and things like that become even more problematic in the process.

    But again, I really think that the 1 John 5:1 interpretation really goes back to an illustration of the baggage that we bring into this discussion and that is if we have a non biblical anthropology (the study of man) – if we have an anthropology that does not take seriously what is said concerning the inabilities of man – think of John – how many times does he emphasize the ability of God but then uses ou dunatai of man – not able – John chapter 6, John chapter 8, John chapter 10, over and over and over again..

    John S – “unless a man is born again he cannot….”

    Dr White – “he cannot, cannot, cannot – its all over the place.. but if your mind has been trained to read “cannot” as “can” – then you might baulk when looking at 1 John 5:1 and saying “oh yeah, clearly here the fact that I have any type of on-going faith is because of the preceding work of God” it all comes from whether you are going to allow all the text to speak or not – its not so much (and I think some people have picked on me, thinking this is what I’m doing – but its not, its not well I can a way of sneaking something into the text over here, or sneaking something into a text over there – I’m not trying to do that – I think if you simply sit back and ask the question “what is John’s doctrine of man’s capacity and ability outside of gegennetai (being regenerated) its pretty clear!

    .. but people don’t do exegesis that way anymore evidently – at least in large portions of evangelicalism – they just let that stuff slide

    And so, yeah – John 20:31 – great text, but if someone’s trying to create an ordo salutis out of it – the problem is you have a present participle then with a subjunctive and its expressing means, purpose, result, things like that – its not functioning in a syntactically parallel way to 1 John 5:1.

    Posted by John Samson on April 9, 2010 03:53 PM


    Excellent stuff thank you for posting

    Very good explanation. Thanks for posting this, John. Truly, God is the one who saves us, and faith is our response to what God has done in us and is continually doing. Our Lord said in John 3:7 'You must be born again.' No one can "born" him/herself, it is a work of God.

    In remembrance of Him,

    There is no "time" relationship being stressed here. So, this passage does not support the calvin claim that faith comes after regeneration. Nothing in the Greek suggests that the "continuous faith" implied in the "present participle" began after the conversion.this is not "exegesis" (drawing the meaning from the text) but rather "eisegesis" (imposing a meaning on the text beyond what it requires.


    You only made an orphaned assertion in search of an argument.

    It actually is plainly past tense with continuous action. To say otherwise is simply to suppress reality. Especially since the same tense is used in several other "have been born again" in 1 John. Also the concept of monergistic regeneration is so prevalent in scripture that you would have to willfully avoid it to not see it.

    Jesus himself teaches it in John 6:63, 65 & 37. "The Spirit gives life (quickens), the flesh counts for nothing... that is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father grants it" (John 6:63-65)

    So no one can believe on Jesus unless God grants it through the quickening work of the Holy Spirit... likewise in verse 37 is declares that "ALL that the Father give to me WILL COME TO ME"

    All that the father give the son will believe.

    Together these verse make a syllogism. No one can believe unless God grants it and all to whom he grants will believe.

    Not some of those he grants will believe, but will. How? verse 65, through the quickening work of the Holy Spirit.

    As soon as the Spirit opens our eyes, ears and heart to the preached gospel, we believe.

    The alternative is to believe that man can believe on Christ while still in his unregenerated human nature ... 1 cor 2:14 says that those still in the flesh cannot understand spiritual things and think them foolish. Only those he first gives understanding will believe.

    In your view, it would seem, that a man can come to Christ of his own free will apart from grace, which is nowhere taught in Scripture.

    See this essay for further demonstration of how the verse in 1 John is correct exegesis.

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