When discussing the logical priority of regeneration and faith it is very helpful to keep in mind why we need to be regenerated in the first place. It is because of sin that we are fallen, creatures. It is because of sin that we are dead. The scriptures say that we are dead in our trespasses and sin. In justification, we are forgiven of our sin. Because sin was the cause of our spiritual death that must first be removed before we gain spiritual life. The logical of this argument is that regeneration cannot precede faith because justification must precede regeneration. We must first be forgiven before we gain the life we lost. Since most Calvinists agree that faith precedes justification. They must also agree that faith precedes regeneration since justification logically comes before regeneration.
One thing that seems abundantly clear is salvation comes through regeneration. To say it another way those who have been regenerated are saved (Titus 3:5). This is important when discussing Calvinism and the ordo salutis. Calvinists argue that regeneration precedes faith. If that is true then why believe because we are already saved? They put the cart before the horse. This is an attempt to prove their version of total depravity. However, it is illogical based on this passage from Titus. Larson Knute writes
“Jesus, in these actual events, gained salvation for all people who believe. Rescuing us from the grip of corruption, he saved us.
The work of salvation comes solely from God’s mercy, not because of righteous things we had done. As Isaiah 64:6 states, “All our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” We can contrive no goodness by which to attain the favor or forgiveness of God. Salvation comes independent of human effort or desire. God initiates, acts, and pursues because of his mercy.
Salvation comes through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. These terms explain, in part, the complex activities which faith in Christ generates. The washing of rebirth refers to the cleansing from sin which results from trust in Jesus Christ. This purification of the sound spirit brings life. No longer living on a purely natural or physical level, believers are transformed from spirit-death to spirit-life. They count themselves “dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:11). Renewal carries the same idea, that a person has come into a new existence, both in this life and for eternity. The Holy Spirit participates in Salvador, establishing his presence in the soul and enabling each person to act in true righteousness”l.
Robert B. Hughes and J. Carl Laney write
“Paul reminded the believers on Crete of their sinful past (3:3) to inspire them to show kindness and consideration toward others. Paul cautioned them not to become spiritual snobs who were insensitive to their continuing need for God’s grace. This was foundational for Paul’s discussion of God’s act of kindness toward the world (3:5–7). Paul set forth a capsule summary of the doctrine of salvation and expounded on several of the provisions of the new covenant (Ezek. 36:25–28). Salvation is not merited by any righteous works, but wholly determined by God’s mercy. “Washed” (3:5) speaks of the spiritual cleansing experienced in the new birth (cf. Ezek. 36:25; Acts 22:16). “New life” (3:5; “regeneration,” NASB and KJV) is the supernatural imparting of spiritual life to believers in Christ (John 3:7). The “new life through the Holy Spirit” (3:5) refers to the Spirit’s regenerating and indwelling ministry (cf. Ezek. 36:27). God’s rich outpouring is to be mirrored in the believers’ rich outpouring of kindness to others. To be “not guilty” (3:7) means to be declared righteous (Rom. 5:1).”m.
Evangelical Commentary on the Bible notes
“The basis for the Christian’s attitude (3:3–8). The usual objection to such courtesy to non-Christians and such subjection to civil authorities is the terrible sinfulness of such people. It is then argued that a Christian cannot act that way to such repulsive and malicious people. Paul’s rejoinder is to remind Christians of their own pre-Christian condition (v. 3, which was of the same character), and of God’s attitude (v. 4, “kindness,” “love”; v. 5, “mercy”) to them at that time and the result (v. 5, “he saved us”). God’s attitude to us prior to conversion must now be our attitude toward non-Christians who are now like we were. We are not saved because of anything we have or are now doing (“not because of righteous things we had done,” v. 5). God effected our salvation by changing our lives through the work of the Holy Spirit (v. 5), whom Jesus Christ “poured out on us” (v. 6). Our lives were changed when we were turned into new creatures both by the new birth (“washing of rebirth”) and also by the new life (“renewal”) that the Holy Spirit brought and continues to bring. So by the gracious accounting of Christ’s righteousness to us (“by his grace”) God declares us here and now righteous (“justified”) in his sight and declares us “heirs” who look forward to “eternal life” (v. 7). “This is a trustworthy saying” (v. 8; see 1 Tim. 1:15). Since we “have trusted in God” his attitude and action toward us should be the basis for our “doing what is good” (v. 8). Good works are never the basis for our salvation (v. 5) but they must always be done by those who are saved (v. 8; see Eph. 2:8–10)”n.
l.Larson, K. (2000). I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon (Vol. 9, pp. 382–383). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
m.Hughes, R. B., & Laney, J. C. (2001). Tyndale concise Bible commentary (pp. 653–654). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
n.Elwell, W. A. (1995). Evangelical Commentary on the Bible (Vol. 3, Tt 3:3). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
(1 Peter 1:23) Peter tells us that we are born again through the word of God. Karen H. Jobes notes
“The command to love earnestly is further qualified by a second causal participle, ἀναγεγεννημένοι (anagegennēmenoi, having been reborn, 1:23), which unites the thought of this verse with 1:3, where the verb first occurred. A crucial question arises: How does having been reborn from imperishable seed
Simon J. Kistemaker also notes
“Why should we love one another? Says Peter, “Because you have been born again.” Note that in the process of rebirth, the believers are passive. That is, God brings them through spiritual birth into this world. Once they are born again, the believers are active in the process of purifying themselves (v. 22).
When Nicodemus asks, “How can a man be born when he is old?” (John 3:4), Jesus teaches him about spiritual birth. In the first chapter of his epistle, Peter mentions spiritual birth twice (vv. 3, 23). The verb born again means that God has given us spiritual life that is new. Without this new life, we are unable to enter the kingdom of God (John 3:3, 5). We demonstrate that we possess this new life through faith in God’s Son, Jesus Christ (John 3:36; 1 John 5:11). Moreover, the Greek text indicates that our spiritual rebirth occurred in the past and has lasting significance for the present and the
Thomas R. Schreiner also notes
“The means by which God begets his people is the seed of God’s word, the preaching of the gospel. Peter’s theology matches Paul’s here, for the latter teaches that “faith comes from hearing the message” (Rom 10:17). Similarly, in Galatians 3 the reception of the Spirit is mediated through believing the preached message (Gal 3:2, 5). Perhaps Peter used the word “living” because the word produces life, and he used the word “enduring” because the life once activated will never cease.”j.
We are surely born again through the word through the gospel. Calvinism teaches we must be born again to even understand the gospel. The most quoted passage is (1 Corinthians 2:14). They claim that man cannot understand the word, therefore he must be born again first.
“It is only the Holy Spirit who can enable a person truly to understand and to know the Lord Jesus Christ. That is why we should never be surprised that very able, intelligent people do not believe the gospel. They cannot. ‘The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God … neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned’ (1 Cor 2:14). We need the ‘mind of Christ’, and in the regeneration, we have the mind of Christ.”k.
This, of course, contradicts what we reading here in Peter. We are born again through the word of God. We are not born again before we are given the word of God. The word of God is the means in which we are born again.
h.Jobes, K. H. (2005). 1 Peter (pp. 124–125). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.
i.Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and the Epistle of Jude (Vol. 16, p. 72). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
j.Schreiner, T. R. (2003). 1, 2 Peter, Jude (Vol. 37, p. 95). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
k.Lloyd-Jones, D. M. (2000). The assurance of our salvation: exploring the depth of Jesus’ prayer for His own: studies in John 17 (p. 477). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
It is not regeneration that prevents us coming from God it is the drawing of God.
Dr. Wayne Grudem said “Scripture indicates that regeneration must come before we can respond to effective calling with saving faith.”e.
The logic of this is astounding when we look at the scriptures. What he means the drawing is not effective though he does not say it. It is not regeneration that is preventing us from coming to God it is God granting and drawing us that is preventing us from coming to God.
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:44)
“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 6:65)
The logic here is that if we are granted and drawn we can come to God. Therefore Regeneration is not what is needed but the drawing and granting.
Many reformed people subscribe to the Westminster Confession which states
“All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, He is pleased, in His appointed and accepted time, effectually to call, (Rom. 8:30, Rom. 11:7, Eph. 1:10–11) by His word and Spirit, (2 Thess. 2:13–14, 2 Cor. 3:3,6) out of that state of sin and death, in which they are by nature to grace and salvation, by Jesus Christ; (Rom. 8:2, Eph. 2:1–5, 2 Tim. 1:9–10) enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God, (Acts 26:18, 1 Cor. 2:10,12, Eph. 1:17–18) taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them an heart of flesh; (Ezek. 36:26) renewing their wills, and, by His almighty power, determining them to that which is good, (Ezek. 11:19, Phil. 2:13, Deut. 30:6, Ezek. 36:27) and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ: (Eph. 1:19, John 6:44–45) yet so, as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace. (Cant. 1:4, Ps. 110:3, John 6:37, Rom. 6:16–18)”f.
Here we see how one easily confuses the two being the same. Namely that regeneration is drawing. Not all Calvinists make this mistake but many do. The word drawing is not the same word as regeneration nor is it a synonym of the word.
So the question arises can man come to God if it has been granted and he has been drawn? According to the scriptures, yes, but that means that regeneration is not necessary before faith. Therefore Calvinism is refuted on that point.
e.Grudem, W. A. (2004). Systematic theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine (p. 700). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.
f.The Westminster confession of faith. (1996). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
Regeneration receiving a new heart was prophesied and not actualized in the old testament. Starting in Deut 30:6 we see the prophecy of reconciliation through christ in the new covenant. John Calvin himself in his commentary on (Deut 30:6) said
“And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart. This promise far surpasses all the others, and properly refers to the new Covenant, for thus it is interpreted by Jeremiah, who introduces God thus speaking,—“Behold, the days come that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and the house of Judah, not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers, … which covenant they brake, … but … I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts.” (Jer. 31:31–33.)”a.
In the Reformation Study Bible, we read concerning (Deu 30:10)
“The blessings of the renewed covenant will be inseparable from, but not based on, the obedience of the restored remnant of the people to their Lord’s commandments (cf., e.g., Matt. 7:21). The obedience of Christ, which is the victory over sin in which the remnant by faith will share, is the only meritorious basis of such blessings.”b.
As we walk through the scriptures we see the promise again and again (Jeremiah 31:31–33) (Ezekiel 36:26) Dr. Wayne Grudem said
“This sovereign work of God in regeneration was also predicted in the prophecy of Ezekiel. Through him God promised a time in the future when he would give new spiritual life to his people”(Ezekiel 36:26-37)c.
God circumcising the heart is different than men circumcising their own hearts (Deuteronomy 10:16). We see a similar reading in (Ezekiel 18:30–32). God calls on man to change their heart and change their spirit. Jeremiah repeats this in (Jeremiah 4:4). This all points to the work of Christ. For what man could not do on their own Christ did for us through His work on the cross (Colossians 2:11).
In short Hebrews 11 is clear old testament saints believed. But what was also clear is they had not received the new covenant and therefore were not regenerated in the same way that we are today. Regeneration is found in Christ alone. A denial of this is really a denial of Solus Christus, through Christ alone. For the scriptures say it is in Him that we are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) Jesus himself said the new covenant was made with his blood (Matthew 26:28) An extension of this same error comes when we read “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)
The logical conclusion here is that if old testament saints were born again they could see the kingdom of God and Jesus did not need to die. This is a grave error. Luke 16 speaks about Abraham’s Bosom. In regards to this discussion, it is very important to ask why they went to Abraham’s Bosom rather than heaven itself? That is because true regeneration comes through what Jesus did on the cross. No one is granted heaven apart from his actual atonement. Let the scriptures be true and every man a liar no one can see heaven unless he has been born again (John 3:3)
Regeneration receiving a new heart was prophesied and not actualized in the old testament. To deny the actual fulfillment in Christ is deny the protestant principle of Christ alone. Clearly, people believed in God without first being regenerated. So to argue that regeneration must precede faith goes against the scriptures. Much of what took place in the Old Testament was a shadow of things to come. The Spirit came upon people for various purposes and reasons. We see that the Spirit came upon people and also left (Judges 13:25; 16:20) (1 Sam. 10:10; 16:14)
The Spirit has a more fulfilling role after Jesus died and rose again. “He convicts unbelievers of sin (Gen. 6:3; John 16:8); He regenerates those dead in trespasses and sin (Eph. 2:1); He seals believers till the day of redemption (Eph. 4:30); He baptizes all believers into the spiritual body of Christ at the moment of salvation (1 Cor. 12:13), assuring us of salvation (Rom. 8:16); He performed miracles to confirm the truth of Christianity (Gal. 3:2–5; Heb. 2:4); He bestowed spiritual gifts on believers (Acts 2:4; 1 Cor. 12:11). He reveals (1 Cor. 2:10) and teaches (Luke 12:12). He inspired the Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20–21), and He is also enlightening believers to God’s truth (Eph. 1:17–18) and witnessing to God’s Word (1 John 5:9–10). He anoints believers for service (1 John 2:20) and fills those who yield to Him (Eph. 5:18). Of course, the Holy Spirit indwells all believers forever (John 14:16–17).d.
There are people that have tried to assert that Old Testament saints must have been regenerated by assuming regeneration precedes faith and not actually proving it.
“If faith is produced by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, then this must be the case for Old Testament saints who looked ahead to the cross, believing that what God had promised in regard to their redemption would come to pass.” –Got Questions
Here I must again point to the fact that it was prophecy, therefore it was not actualized.Secondly, life is found in Christ, and we are in Christ by grace through faith. Jesus had to actually die on the cross. If Old Testament saints were regenerated then they could see the kingdom of God (John 3:3) and Jesus did not need to die. Yet Got Questions does not say they seen heaven but went a place known as paradise “The Old Testament believers went to a place of comfort and rest called “paradise” when they died”-Got Questions . Hence there is some inconsistency there.
John Hendryx tries to respond in a similar fashion and quotes (Chronicles 30:11-12) as proof of Old Testament regeneration.Yet if you follow his conclusion it agrees with the actualization principle
“While the work of the Spirit was active in the OT what we have is founded of better promises for everything which the OT pointed to has been fulfilled”- Hendyrx
There may have been forms of the indwelling Spirit or Regeneration but the true regeneration that we are talking about was promised and only found in Christ.Hence Old Testament saints believed without having the true form of regeneration.
Hamilton at gospel coalition responds in a similar way by when he stated
“There is oblique evidence in the Old Testament for the idea that members of the faithful remnant had circumcised hearts. Consider (Jeremiah 9:24)” –gospel coalition.
The text quoted here does not say the God circumcised their hearts. It can be reasonably assumed by this and every other passage quoted that they circumcised their own hearts (Deuteronomy 10:16). Which as was stated above is different than God circumcising their hearts which is what the prophecy is about (Deut 30:6). This shows the consistency of what was prophesied as opposed to the shadow of the prophecy that was actualized in the old testament. As was stated above if they were regenerated Christ did not need to die. (John 3:3) tells that those who have been born again can see the kingdom. Hence there is nothing stopping them from entering into heaven.
a.Calvin, J., & Bingham, C. W. (2010). Commentaries on the Four Last Books of Moses Arranged in the Form of a Harmony (Vol. 3, p. 284). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
b.Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 286). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.
c.Grudem, W. A. (2004). Systematic theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine (p. 699). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.
d.Geisler, N. L. (2003). Systematic theology, volume two: God, creation (p. 677). Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers.