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Faith Precedes Regeneration

Acts 16:31: “And they said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.’”

Romans 10:9: “[I]f you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Romans 10:13-14a: “For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed?”

John 1:12: “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

All these verses can be expressed in the logical form, “If you believe in Christ, then you will be saved.” That is a hypothetical proposition. There is a condition, and there is a consequence. The condition is, “You believe in Christ,” and the consequence is, “You will be saved.” In a conditional statement like this, the condition is logically prior to the consequence. Therefore, believing is logically prior to being saved. Therefore, faith precedes regeneration.

5 thoughts on “Faith Precedes Regeneration”

  1. There are two points that I feel need to be expressed here:

    First, all of the verses you’re pointing to don’t at all say anything about regeneration. They talk about belief and salvation, but regeneration and salvation are actually two slightly different things. Regeneration is having the spirit put into us, while salvation is the actual saving us from wrath. Thus, the verses that you site support the idea that we must believe before being saved, but they don’t say anything about where in this process regeneration falls.

    Second, this begs the question of what does it take to actually be able to believe? John three actually is answering this exact question. If you look closely at John three, this is exactly the issue that Nicodemus is trying to understand. He wants to understand how it is that he can come to believe and be saved (exactly what you’re showing in the above verses, belief and salvation, not belief and regeneration). The whole argument that Christ makes in this chapter, is that before one can even believe (or even have the faith to believe), he must first be regenerated. Christ explicitly states in John 3:3 that before one can even begin to see the kingdom of God (let alone believe in it), he must be reborn. John 3:6 goes on to explain that being reborn is having the Holy Spirit give you a new spirit. Ergo, regeneration must proceed faith/belief/salvation.

  2. All of the verses presented in your post actually deal with belief occuring before “salvation “. Salvation and regeneration, though similar, are not exactly identical. Salvation deals with the actual saving of the individual or declaring them not guilty of their sins while regeneration deals with the giving of a new spirit. Thus, what these verses fully and so beautifully demonstrate is that belief precedes Salvation, but they actually say nothing about where “regeneration” fits within this process. All three are part of the process of becoming a follower of Christ, but regeneration is not actually discussed in any of the verses you mentioned. For instance, in Acts 16:31 which you noted as an example of belief preceding regeneration, as we can see very clearly, believing presedes saving; but regeneration is not at all discussed

    “And they said, ‘[Believe] in the Lord Jesus, and you will be [saved], you and your household.’”

    All of the verses you noted require us to explore something that Christ was directly asked about and that He so wonderfully and beautifully explained which we can so clearly see in John. In John 3, Nicodemus asked Christ a really critical question. In a nutshell, he asked, what does it take to be able to believe. Christ explicitly tells him in John 3:3 that before he can become a believer, and even before he can even understand anything about the Kingdom of God, he must first be “born again”. Just three verses later in John 3:6, Christ defines what exactly being born again (a.k.a., regenerated) is, essentially it is being given a new spirit by the Holy Spirit.

    Thus, if we put the bad and amazingly good news together we find out that:

    The bad news:

    a) We have all sinned and therefore deserve nothing but the wrath of God (Romans 3:10-12).

    b) We have the spirit of the air influencing us (pre-regeneration (Ephesians 2:2-3).

    The good news:

    a) Even though we deserve the exact opposite, the Holy Spirit comes in and removes that old spirit and places a new spirit within us (Ezekiel 36:26; John 3:3-6) so that we can now understand the things of heaven (John 3:3; 1 Corinthians 2:11-12).

    d) And we are told that regeneration (John 3:6), faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9), and even our belief (Philippians 1:29) are gifts that are all given to those who have been chosen by the Father and given to the Son (see John 6).

    Thus, your verses do a beautiful job of displaying how we believe and then we are given that glorious gift of Salvation, but they tell us nothing about regeneration. If you read John 1, 3, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, and 17, they all point to God’s beautiful regenerating work that must precede belief which in turn precedes salvation!

    The thing that to me is so amazingly beautiful about the Gospel is that while I deserved nothing but the wrath of God, He chose to love me , divinely elect me unto salvation, and give me the above unspeakably amazing gifts of a new spirit (regeneration), grace, faith, belief, and salvation, before I ever even loved Him (see Romans 3:10-12, 5:8-9) and even opened my eyes to see what wonderful truth there is in Him (see Psalm 119:18; John 6 where Christ discusses the reason that He speaks in Parables).

    Honestly, to me, regeneration preceding faith is evidence of a God who loved me first!!

    The beauty of regeneration preceding faith being more beautiful then the other way around, can be so easily illustrated in the following countering examples:

    Two men have learned that their wives are pregnant:

    Faith -> regeneration example: The dad tells his unborn child, you love me or I will not give you birth, I will abort (murder) you. You will not be mine, and I will refuse to love you. It is your choice. Yes, I know your eyes have not yet been open, your ears still can’t quite hear, and you can not yet understand what it would mean to be mine, but you have to decide, you love me or death will be yours, even though you are still in infancy!

    Regeneration -> faith example: The Father tells his unborn child, you are mine. I created you, and I loved you from before your heart even began to beat. Thus, even though you don’t yet know me, and you don’t yet love me, I have loved you with a love you can not comprehend. And to show you just how much I love you , and to ensure you understand that love once you are born, I am going to give you gifts that will show you the incredible love I have for you and these same gifts will cause you to fall unbelievably deeply in love with me as your Father!

    I dont’ know about you, but I know which situation I want, and I am soooooo eternally grateful that the Bible so beautifully, consistently, and thoroughly shouts regeneration preceding faith!!!!! And I would never want it any other way!

    Ask yourself this questino. WOuld you want to know that the Father chose you or do you want to have a dad that you had to choose or he’d reject you!

    Faith before regeneration assumes that God just wants whoever, it doesn’t matter who to come but he needs to know you love him or he won’t love you. This is a god who can’t live without our love, a needy, weak, pathetic, not all-powerful god who is in need of something from us (um I think the Triune God is not in need of anything)!

    Regeneration preceding faith assumes a God who is just and Holy and who says that we all deserve His wrath, and so He has chosen to allow all men to either have what they think they want and what they truly deserve (Romans 3:10-12) and what we all deserve (wrathful justice for our sins) or to show grace that none of us deserve.

    The faith preceiding regeneration idea has to assume that we all deserve to be in heaven because of Christ and yet that god simply couldn’t save all people but he is just rrrreeeeaaaallllllllyyyyy hoping that people will take advantage of his son’s blood. This also requires something of us before being saved so it is grace + something by us. And this then requires us to ask the question of what about all the people who receive eternal punishment. If such punishment is God’s eternal wrath, then did the wrath God placed on Christ for these people mean nothing or did their sins end up having double the payment they deserved. Both situations lead to an unjust god, which is not the God of the Bible.

    Regeneration preceding faith assumes that God is Holy, Just, Good, and Gracious and never acts unlovingly! That is the LORD, Savior and King i follow and so gratefully serve!

    Someone once said that most people who are reformed or arminian would say, if I am wrong in the way I understand this to have occured (which came first), they would be just fine accepting this when they found it out when they meet the LORD face-to-face. For me, personally, I can say with full conviction, that if on that day, I were to discover that the lord is not who I have come to know through His wonderful, Holy, and beautifully Divinely inspired Word, I would say, send me away for you are not the God I know, love, or would willingly serve in any way and are not a god I want to know! The God I see in every verse from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22 is the God who first regenerates and then gives us the gift to believe, or said differently the God who chose, before the beginning of time, to love me, a sinner who was deserving of nothing but His eternal wrath and still deserves that wrath and who would be completely just, even now to give me that everlasting wrath!

    1. Hi Chris! I’m glad to see you’re reading my new blog.

      Wow! There’s a lot there. I’ll simply say this. John 3 never says that regeneration precedes faith. It says, “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (v. 3). It says, “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (v. 5). But it does not say, “Unless one is born again, he cannot believe.” According to this passage, regeneration precedes entering the kingdom of God. That is different from regeneration preceding faith.

      Anyway, I hope things are going well. Take Care!

  3. Hey Casey!
    You are absolutely correct that John 3 does not directly say that by itself but if you look to John 6 where Christ is teaching about the fact of seeing the Kingdom, what Christ tells His Disciples is that He speaks in parables so that those who are not the Father’s Chosen People wil not hear the truth so that they might come to believe and be saved.

    Thus, when you put Christ’s teachings together they point to regeneration must precede any type of understanding. We are not called to blind faith, but faith based on understanding what the Scriptures teach from the Word, and this requires our eyes opening, which then leads to belief. SO if you follow the order, it would be:

    regeneration -> eyes opening (understanding) -> faith comes from understanding, and then belief comes from faith.

    That is why I emphasized needing John 6 to continue to see what Christ is teaching because 6 explains the eyes being opened.

    I hope you are well and I am seriously sorry for two posts earlier, I didn’t think my original went through so I figured I’d try again:)! Sorry about that, that is why there was such a seriously lengthy amount of information posted and why twice:)!
    I hope you and your readers have a blessed day!! So nice to hear from you!

    1. Hi Chris,

      I’m not sure what warrant there is for treating regeneration and salvation as two separate things. It seems like an artificial and unnecessary distinction. I think of them as two different names for the same thing. Someone who is saved is regenerate, and vice versa. It is the same thing, looked at from two different points of view to emphasize two different aspects of salvation. But it is not two different things that happen at two different moments.

      As for John 6, I guess I read that passage a little differently. Jesus is interacting with a crowd of people who are coming to him for the wrong reasons. Jesus has just fed them with a free lunch, and now they want more free food. Jesus is trying to get them to focus on heavenly realities rather than earthly food, but they are too stubborn and dense to open their eyes to heavenly things. They just want to eat. Jesus eventually sees that it is hopeless to get them to look beyond their next meal, and concludes that they are not receptive to his teaching because God has not opened their eyes. He uses a lot of language about bread and eating, using a metaphor that is appropriate to their present concern about food. Then Jesus interprets this interaction to his close followers. It is a teaching moment for Jesus to test the hearts of his followers. It is also a decision point for many of them, and many of them leave Jesus at that point.

      In the midst of this passage, there is a verse (v. 44) that is usually used as a prooftext for an effectual calling, but taking the passage as a whole, I don’t think it is enough to establish a systematic theological construct like effectual calling. I think the most we can say is that we need to be illumined by the Holy Spirit and drawn, or called, by God, in order to look past concerns of this world and be concerned with heavenly things. But the idea that this call must be effectual, in the Calvinistic sense, is going a step further than the text warrants.

      There is a lot in this passage about people being stubborn, blind to spiritual things, and grumbling; God calling, drawing, and enlightening them; and people responding to that call either positively or negatively and sometimes making final decisions either to follow Jesus or turn away from him. People who have different paradigms about how God interacts with humans, and different paradigms of the relationship between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility, can read this passage in different ways.

      One way to read it is deterministically, with total inability being overcome only by an effectual call in which regeneration precedes faith in a completely monergistic process. Another way to read it is as a genuine back-and-forth between a God who wants to have a love relationship with people, and people who have genuine agency and the ability to choose whether or not to have such a love relationship. I tend to read the Bible according to the latter paradigm.

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