The New Birth: Before or After Repentance & Faith?

[You can view a PDF of this post HERE.]

Introduction

The doctrine of the new birth, also known as regeneration,[1] is a central teaching in the broader doctrine of salvation.  Unfortunately, not all Christians see eye-to-eye in regards to the place of regeneration in the ordo salutis (order of salvation).  Briefly stated, the Reformed position (which I argue for in this article) holds that the new birth precedes and effectually brings about repentance and faith in an individual.  On the other hand, the non-Reformed position (e.g. Arminianism)[2] holds that repentance and faith precedes and effectually brings about the new birth in an individual.[3]  At first glance this may seem like a trivial matter.  Yet, upon closer examination of the nature of this doctrine, along with the implications of the Arminian view, we must conclude that the difference between the two perspectives are far from trivial and have bearing on the nature of the gospel itself.

The New Birth Defined

The new birth or regeneration may be defined as that work of the Holy Spirit upon spiritually dead sinners that brings about new, spiritual life – a new nature.  At this point, both Calvinists and Arminians should agree.  However, once we begin to dig deeper into the meaning of these words, I believe the Arminian position will begin to manifest its inconsistency.  While the Arminian would add, “having repented and believed in the gospel,” the Calvinist would add, “whereby the person may now truly understand the things of God in the gospel and respond in repentance and faith.”  Again, in the Arminian perspective, repentance and faith brings about the new birth; in the Calvinist perspective, the new birth brings about repentance and faith.  Any trivial thoughts on the difference between these two perspectives should start to subside now that we’ve seen the meaning of regeneration – a work of the Holy Spirit whereby new, spiritual life is communicated.  Is this all a sovereign and gracious work of God (Calvinism), or does man in some way cooperate with the Holy Spirit to bring it about (Arminianism)?  That’s the dividing line.

Specific Scriptures that communicate to us this definition of regeneration will be discussed below, as we look at the Scriptural basis for the Calvinist position.  First, let us consider why the new birth or regeneration must precede repentance and faith, and then look at where in the Scriptures this teaching on the new birth preceding repentance and faith is specifically taught.

Why the New Birth Must Precede Repentance & Faith

The thing we are considering here is the spiritual condition or state of man prior to regeneration.  A proper, biblical understanding of this spiritual condition provides the theological foundation upon which the doctrine of regeneration, especially its place in the ordo salutis, may be rightly discerned and appreciated.  If one’s theology of the spiritual state of man is not in agreement with the Scriptures, I can guarantee you that neither will their theology of regeneration be in agreement with the Scriptures.  Such is the organic relation of these doctrines, and of doctrines in general (i.e. theological consistency).[4]

So, what do the Scriptures teach on the spiritual state or condition of man prior to being born again?  Numerous Scriptures could be referenced and discussed; however, I will simply focus on a few key texts.[5]

Keep in mind, too, that the backdrop of all this is the Fall of our first parents, Adam and Eve (Gen. 2:15-17; 3).  Because Adam is the representative head of the entire human race, all those after him (i.e. his progeny) are born in his corrupt likeness (Gen. 5:3; Rom. 5:12; cf. Ps. 51:5).

Genesis 6:5, 11-12 “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually….  Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence.  God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth.”

Commentary: This is a very important passage for understanding the fallen nature of mankind, as well as God’s righteous judgment of sin (sending a flood to kill all of mankind) and gracious redemption (saving only Noah and his family from the flood).  My focus, however, will simply be on the description of man’s fallen state.

In this passage four words are used to describe the sinfulness of man: wickedness, evil, corrupt (3 times), and violence.  This is not a pretty picture.  What is more, however, the wickedness of man is described as being great; the evil of man as being continual; the violence of man as being spread throughout the earth, and the corruption of man as being true of all flesh.  Now it’s really not a pretty picture.  But wait, there’s more.  The text says “that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (emphasis added).  The very core of man’s being – the heart – is described as being the source of all this evil, wickedness, corruption, and violence (cf. Mk. 7:20-23).  On this very point, from the Genesis passage, John Gill comments with the following:

The heart of man is evil and wicked, desperately wicked, yea, wickedness itself, a fountain of iniquity, out of which abundance of evil flows, by which it may be known in some measure what is in it, and how wicked it is; but God, that sees it, only knows perfectly all the wickedness of it, and the evil that is in it: the “thoughts” of his heart are evil; evil thoughts are formed in the heart, and proceed from it; they are vain, foolish, and sinful, and abominable in the sight of God, by whom they are seen, known, and understood afar off: the “imagination” of his thoughts is evil, the formation of them; they were evil while forming, the substratum of thought, the very beginning of it, the first motion to it, yea, “every” such one was evil, and “only” so; not one good among them, not one good thing in their hearts, no one good thought there, nor one good imagination of the thought; and so it was “continually” from their birth, from their youth upwards, throughout the whole of their lives, and all the days of their lives, night and day, and day after day, without intermission: this respects the original corruption of human nature, and shows it to be universal; for this was not only true of the men of the old world, but of all mankind; the same is said of men after the flood as before, and of all men in general without any exception, Gen. 8:21. Hence appears the necessity of regeneration, and proves that the new creature is not an improvement of the old principles of corrupt nature, since there is no good thing in man but what is put into him; also the disability of man to do that which is good, even to think a good thought, or do a good action; therefore the works of unregenerate men are not properly good works, since they cannot flow from a right principle, or be directed to a right end.[6]

Ephesians 2:1-3 “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.  Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.” (cf. 4:17-19)

Commentary: An important thing to keep in mind when reading this passage is that Paul is describing what Christians used to be (prior to God’s grace in their lives bringing about salvation).  While much could be written on this text, I will simply focus on the most critical points.

First, Paul describes the former state of the believer, which is still true of all those outside of Christ, as being dead in trespasses and sins.  This terminology is important.  Paul is taking something that everyone is familiar with – death – and using it as an illustration for the spiritual condition of man (cf. Gen. 2:17; Ezek. 37:1-14; Rom. 6:23; 1 Tim. 5:6).  There is obviously a God-intended relationship between physical and spiritual death.  Man is spiritually dead.  Just as physical death brings about separation from and an inability to respond to the physical world, so spiritual death is a separation from God and an inability to do that which is pleasing to Him.  Elsewhere, Paul uses such terminology as futility of the mind, darkened understanding, separation from the life of God, ignorance, hardness of heart, callousness, guided by sensuality, greedily practicing impurity (Eph. 4:17-19).  In short, whatever is contrary to God, man may be described as indulging in it.  That’s essentially what Paul is saying in the passage before us.  We used to walk “according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air,” living “in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desire of the flesh and of the mind.”  Mankind, by nature, is contrary and hostile to God.  This comes to a spear head when Paul concludes that we “were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest” (emphasis added).  This concept of man being corrupt to the core – for that is what “by nature” suggests – is set before us again, just as we saw in the Genesis passage.  Louis Berkhof concludes:

In this passage the term ‘by nature’ points to something inborn and original as distinguished from what is subsequently acquired.  Sin, then, is something original, in which all men participate, and which makes them guilty before God.[7]

Until this reality of the corruptness of man’s nature is truly comprehended and accepted, the passage that immediately follows this dark picture of man will not be truly treasured: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” (Eph. 2:4-5; emphasis added).  Let us just look at one more passage before coming to a conclusion in this section as to why regeneration must precede and effectually bring about repentance and faith.

Romans 8:5-8 “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.  For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”

Commentary: Again, we find in this passage similar depictions of fallen mankind: death, flesh (i.e. sinful nature and sinful desires), and hostility toward God.  Another key concept that we have already briefly looked at, but which receives explicit wording in this passage, is that of inability.  It is this concept of inability that I wish to focus on here.

Those who are according to the flesh are all those outside of Christ (i.e. natural man).  Those according to the Spirit are those in Christ, those who possess the Holy Spirit.  Again, all those who are according to the Spirit once were according to the flesh.  As the text says, the mind set on the flesh is death; for flesh (i.e. sinful nature) produces that which is according to it – sinful desires, thoughts, actions.  The flesh is hostile toward God; and why is the flesh hostile toward God?  Because it does not subject itself to God’s Law, nor is it able to do so.  If this isn’t enough to establish the inability of fallen man to choose good over evil in the spiritual realm, Paul has one more thing to say to round it all out: “and those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (emphasis added).  Now, we must not think that the flesh desires to do God’s will, but is simply incapable of doing so.  That’s not what the text suggests or even says.  Remember, the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God.”  Thomas Schreiner explains further:

Not only do they refuse to submit to God’s law; they ‘cannot’ keep it.  And ‘those who are of the flesh are not able to please God.’  Paul is certainly speaking not of a physical inability to keep God’s law but of a moral inability to do so.  He does not conclude that those of the flesh are not responsible for their sins because of their inability.  Rather, he holds them responsible for their sins even though they cannot keep God’s law.  Paul apparently did not believe that people were only culpable for sin if they had the ‘moral’ ability to keep commandments.[8]

If those in the flesh desired to obey God’s Law, but simply could not, that would be a “physical inability.”  However, the matter consists of a “moral inability;” that is, they are enemies of God and therefore do not desire to do that which is pleasing to Him (cf. 1:18ff).  Commenting on the same text, Paul Washer sums this thought up well:

Thus, as our text teaches us, man cannot obey or subject himself to the law of God because he will not, and he will not because he hates God [cf. Rom. 5:10; Col. 1:21].  The problem is not free will, but ill will.  Fallen man so hates God that he will not submit to Him even if it leads to eternal destruction.[9]

The apostle Paul essentially states the same thing, in a different way, in Romans 6:20: “For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.”

What we have seen in these passages is known by Reformed theologians as “the bondage of the will,” because they teach that man’s will, after the Fall, is enslaved to the flesh – the sin nature.

Concluding Remarks

We have just looked somewhat extensively at three key passages of Scripture on the nature of fallen mankind.  What have we found?  In summary, we’ve seen that all of mankind is born with a sin nature, and therefore they are by nature children of wrath.  The very core of man is corrupt, and this corruption breeds all kinds of evil.  Man is an enemy of God their Creator.  Being in the flesh they cannot please God, and they cannot because they will not; their wills are enslaved to sin.

Free Will. When one says that man has free will, they must define their terms.  If “free will” is used to mean that man can choose that which is spiritually good (pleasing to God), such as faith, over that which is not spiritually good (sin), then they have contradicted the explicit teaching of Scripture, as we have just seen.  While this can be said of Adam and Eve prior to the Fall, it cannot be said of man post-Fall.  Rather, man’s will is enslaved to sin and free in regard to righteousness.  Now, if by “free will” they mean that man makes real, personal choices in life, then that’s a different matter.  To this, Calvinists can agree.  However, in light of what we have just seen, in the above passages, man does not possess the “free will” to savingly believe in the gospel.  Their nature is contrary to it.  What we have seen is that man’s will is in bondage to the sin nature, and therefore wills that which is contrary to God and His ways.

In light of this spiritual condition of mankind, the Reformed perspective of the new birth presents a consistent theology: regeneration precedes and effectually brings about repentance and faith.  Put another way, fallen, sinful man must first be given new, spiritual life before he can savingly believe in the gospel.  R. C. Sproul provides a fitting conclusion to this section of our study:

Regeneration is the work of the Holy Spirit upon those who are spiritually dead (see Ephesians 2:1-10).  The Spirit recreates the human heart, quickening it from spiritual death to spiritual life.  Regenerate people are new creations.  Where formerly they had no disposition, inclination, or desire for the things of God, now they are disposed and inclined toward God.  In regeneration, God plants a desire for Himself in the human heart that otherwise would not be there.[10]

The only thing we have to do now is to look at key passages that specifically teach this Reformed perspective that the new birth precedes and effectually brings about repentance and faith.  Again, the other side of this issue, which I am arguing against, is that one’s repentance and faith in the gospel is what actually brings about or leads to the new birth.  Well, what do the Scriptures say?

The New Birth in the Scriptures

When it comes to engaging in a critical study of a particular doctrine, it is best to study those Scriptures that provide specific treatment of that doctrine.  For instance, if one were wanting to study the doctrine of justification, the best New Testament books for that study would be Romans and Galatians, because Paul there gives special treatment of that doctrine in those letters.  Then, having examined the doctrine of justification from those explicit texts, and coming to a sound conclusion, one can then more properly understand those texts that, although not explicitly teaching on justification, do in fact relate to it.  To reverse this order can be dangerous and lead to false doctrine.

So, what passages in the New Testament give specific treatment to this doctrine of the new birth?  The passages we are going to look at are John 1:12-13; 3:3,5; and 1 John 5:1.[11]  Apparently the apostle John had a special drawing to this aspect of salvation, having given such special treatment to it.  There are of course other passages in Scripture that we could examine, but these should suffice.

John 1:12-13 “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

Commentary: Interestingly enough, there are many who automatically think that this passage teaches the Arminian perspective – the new birth takes place and is a result of our repenting and believing – simply because John here mentions faith first (v. 12) and then the new birth (v. 13).  This, however, does not necessitate such an interpretation, and in fact the internal teaching of the text argues against such a view.

Rather, when one takes the time to examine the text, they will (should) notice that v. 13 presents a retrospective thought.  Whereas v. 12 emphasizes man’s responsibility, v. 13 emphasizes God’s sovereign grace in the matter, giving the theological foundation for v. 12.  In other words, to say that faith precedes and brings about the new birth is to completely contradict John’s denial and affirmation in v. 13; that is, the new birth is not of man in any way, shape, or form, but wholly and entirely of God.  The new birth is not a result of physical relation to Abraham, of works of righteousness, or of anything that man may conjure up from within himself.  If man, by “free will,” essentially chooses to be born again, then John’s words, “nor of the will of man,” are meaningless.  Rather, by means of the word and the Spirit does God bring about new birth in an individual; the Spirit works through the word to bring about conviction, life, and faith (e.g. 1 Pet. 1:23; 1 Cor. 2:10-16).  Further, just as we did not will our physical births – we had no say in the matter – nor can we will our spiritual births.  Lastly, we cannot fail to recognize that before the foundation of the world God predestined His elect to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, to the praise of His glorious grace (Eph. 1:3-6), thus grounding our salvation in the eternal decree of God.

John 3:3,5 “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God’….Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.’”

Commentary: This is indeed the most popular passage on the topic of the new birth; and I believe Jesus’ words are very pointed.

It is commonly understood by evangelical commentators that “born of water and the Spirit” is intended as a reference to Ezekiel 36:25-27, and that “water” refers, not to baptism or physical birth, but to spiritual cleansing.[12]  To this I whole-heartedly agree.  The new birth, in other words, is a two-sided coin: one side is cleansing and the other is renewing.  This parallels what we’ve already briefly considered in regards to the relation of the new birth to the word and Spirit (cf. Eph. 5:25-26; Tit. 3:5).

Now, it’s important to keep in mind the thematic context here.  With Jesus’ encounter with the Jewish leaders at the temple (2:13-22), with Nicodemus (3:1-8), and with the Samaritan woman (4:7-26), John illustrates this theme of spiritual things vs. earthly things.  Whereas Jesus was referring to His body when speaking of the destruction of the temple, the Jewish leaders thought only of the physical temple.  Whereas Jesus spoke of living water (eternal life through the Spirit) to the Samaritan woman, she could only think of the water in the well.  The same is true here; whereas Jesus speaks of spiritual birth, Nicodemus can only think of physical birth (though some believe Nicodemus knew that Jesus couldn’t have been speaking of physical birth; but I think the text and thematic context clearly demonstrates otherwise).[13]  In other words, what we see here is a continual failure of the natural man to comprehend the things of the kingdom.  Jesus’s words to Nicodemus are instructive at this point: “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God;” and “unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”  Indeed, apart from the new birth the natural man cannot understand divine and spiritual things (cf. 1 Cor. 2:10-16), and so enter in the kingdom of God.  Repentance and faith are certainly implied here, but Jesus’ emphasis remains on the sovereign and gracious work of the Spirit of God, as elsewhere in John’s Gospel (e.g. 6:44-45, 61-65).

What is in view here is a new nature.  Flesh gives birth to flesh, whereas the Spirit gives birth to spirit.  This is not something we can do, or initiate, or finish.  It is the sovereign and gracious work of God.  The sovereign work of the Spirit in this new birth is further expressed in v. 8.  Carson remarks:

Thus it is with everyone born of the Spirit: they have their ‘origin and destiny in the unseen God’…not in ‘human decision or a husband’s will’, for they are ‘born of God’ (1:13).  Both the mysteriousness and the undeniable power of the Spirit of God are displayed in the Scriptures to which Nicodemus had devoted so many years of study.[14]

Any attempts to make man’s will the cause of the new birth, or an assistance to the new birth, is to betray the text, essentially flipping it on its theological head.  The only thing man contributes is the need of it…and ignorance.  This is why one moment an unbeliever can be ignorant of the things of God, even to the point of hostility, and then the next moment broken over their sin, and calling out to God in repentance and faith.  The reason is two words: new birth.  Or one word: regeneration.

1 John 5:1 “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him.”

Commentary: Now, some would read this text something like this: “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ will be or becomes born of God….”  Why is this a problem?  Well, there are two things that need to be pointed out here.  The first has to do with the actual grammar of the text, the second has to do with the mention of other related texts in 1 John.  I’ll let John Stott explain the first point:

The combination of present tense (ho pisteuon, believes) and perfect [i.e. completed, with results] is important.  It shows clearly that believing is the consequence, not the cause, of the new birth.  Our present, continuing activity of believing is the result, and therefore the evidence, of our past experience of new birth by which we became and remain God’s children.[15]

Simple enough; the grammar of the text suggests to us that our new birth is not the result of our faith, but is the cause of our faith.

There is more, however.  In numerous other places John speaks of the new birth in relation to other aspects of the Christian life.  In 1 John 2:29 we are told “you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.”  If one wishes to view 5:1 as teaching that our faith produces or brings about our new birth, they must likewise conclude that our righteousness also brings about the new birth.  This, however, would certainly be a works-based salvation.  Obviously, what
we saw in 5:1 is likewise true in 2:29 – the new birth is the cause of our practice of righteousness.  The same thing is true of 4:7 – we are not born of God because we love, but we love because we have been born of God.

Other Related Scriptures

The following is a brief list of other Scriptures that essentially teach the same truth of God’s sovereign grace in bringing sinners to repentance and faith.  Apart from the regenerating work of God, man will not believe in the gospel.  [All italics are added for emphasis.]

Acts 13:48 “When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.”

Romans 8:29-30 “For those whom He foreknew,[16] He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”

1 Corinthians 1:26-31 “For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before GodBut by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, ‘LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD.’”

Philippians 1:29 “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.”

2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 “But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.  It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Conclusion

We have looked at much in this article; but all of it is very important.  We have seen the total depravity of mankind; that man is fallen in Adam, and so enters this world dead in trespasses and sins, hating God, and is by nature a child of wrath.  This leads to the logical conclusion that a radical work of grace – regeneration – must first take place if man is to savingly believe in the gospel.  We then looked at key Scriptures that specifically teach this radical, sovereign grace of God in bringing sinners to salvation – the new birth precedes and brings about repentance and faith.

Obviously, many who read this will continue to stick to their traditional theology, and so continue to reject the clear teaching of Scripture, that God is absolutely sovereign in salvation, and that it is truly all of His grace, from beginning to end (man contributes nothing).  To say that repentance and faith precedes and brings about the new birth is to essentially assert that man contributes something to their salvation; for they cooperate with God to bring it to fruition.  It’s like God does a certain percentage of it, but we have to contribute that last percentage, even if only .1%.  It is to say that salvation ultimately rests in man’s decision.[17]

It is not enough to merely affirm God’s complete glory in the matter of salvation; we must also give consideration to the implications of our theological positions.  When it comes down to it, I believe the Arminian perspective presents a view of man that is better than what we find in Scripture, as well as diminishes God’s absolute sovereignty and grace, even to the point where that grace can be demanded (though they would never explicitly say such a thing).  Grace, however, to be grace at all, cannot be demanded, and must be lavished on people as the Sovereign sees fit for His glory and praise.  To sum everything up, the new birth must precede repentance and faith because:

  1. Man is dead in trespasses and sins, and therefore cannot do that which is pleasing to God
  2. Salvation is all of grace, from beginning to end, and to God’s praise and glory
  3. Asserting otherwise would lead to – or is based on – a higher view of #1 (i.e. man is not as bad as Scripture depicts) and a lower view of #2 (i.e. God is not absolutely sovereign and free in His grace)


[1] These terms, along with “born again,” will be used interchangeably throughout this article.

[2] I realize that the non-Reformed view of this doctrine finds itself in various theological systems.  I also realize that not everyone who holds to the non-Reformed position would refer to themselves as Arminain.  However, for the sake of simplicity, I will utilize the term Arminian/Arminianism throughout the article.

[3] This may be called “decisional regeneration.”  While adherents of this view likely wouldn’t call it this, it is a fitting description because one’s “decision” of Christ is what brings about regeneration or the new life in this system.

[4] I have found that many objections to the Calvinist perspective essentially present a view of man that is better than what we actually find in Scripture.  Far too often man is spoken of as a victim, rather than a suspect in God’s court.  The Scriptures we will look at present man as anything but a victim; man is a suspect (a transgressor of the Law) in God’s court.

[5] All Scripture quotations are from the NASB.

[6] Gill, John. Commentary on Genesis.  Accessed from e-sword.

[7] Berkhof, Louis. Systematic Theology (MI: Eerdmans Publishing, reprinted 1974), 240.

[8] Schreiner, Thomas R. Romans (MI: Baker Books, reprinted 2008), 412-413.  I have left out the Greek from this quote for the sake of space and simplicity.

[9] Washer, Paul. The Gospel’s Power & Message (MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 101.  Emphasis is his.

[10] Sproul, R. C. Essential Truths of the Christian Faith (IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1992), 179.  Emphasis added.

[11] For a fuller study on this doctrine, see John Murray’s chapter on regeneration in his classic work, Redemption Accomplished and Applied (MI: Eerdmans, 1955), 95-105.

[12] See, for example, D.A. Carson. The Gospel According to John (MI: Eerdmans, 1991), 191-196.

[13] Ibid. 190-191.

[14] Ibid. 198.

[15] Stott, John R. W. The Letters of John (IL: Inter Varsity Press, reprinted in 2009), 172.

[16] Many like to insert here, “would believe.”  That is, God elected and predestined those whom He “foresaw would believe in Christ.”  Such, however, goes against the actual wording of the passage (He foreknew people, not what people would do), its emphasis and thrust (God’s sovereign grace and glory), and other passages like Ephesians 1:3-14, which teaches that God predestined for the praise of His glorious grace.  Man wants to insert himself into such texts, but it only ends up flipping the meaning of the text on its head, and ultimately grounds salvation, not in God, but in man.

[17] At this point, many will object that Scripture clearly teaches that we must repent and believe to be saved, so this destroys the Reformed perspective.  It is true that we must repent and believe to be saved, but this fails to comprehend the argument.  The Reformed perspective doesn’t deny that man must repent and believe to be saved (we are often misrepresented at this point), but that apart from God’s sovereign and effectual grace – the new birth – man will not repent and believe.  In other words, repentance and faith are gifts of God.  It is a question of the place of repentance and faith in the ordo salutis.  To put repentance and faith before the new birth or regeneration is to put the final determining factor of salvation in the hands of man, and so belittles God’s sovereignty, and presents a better view of man’s fallen state than is actually taught in Scripture.

One thought on “The New Birth: Before or After Repentance & Faith?

  1. Pingback: Midweek Roundup: What We Didn’t Get Around To Posting | The Confessing Baptist

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