Mar 27, 2007

Right Now Counts Forever by R.C. Sproul

REGENERATION PRECEDES FAITH. This assertion that captures the heart of the distinctive theology of historic Augustinian and Reformed thought is the watershed assertion that distinguishes that theology from all forms of semi-Pelagianism.

The semi-Pelagian would argue that despite the ravages of the fall, man still has an island of righteousness left in his soul, by which he still can accept or reject God’s offer of grace. This view, so widely held in evangelical circles, argues that one must believe in Christ in order to be born again, and so the order of salvation is reversed in this view by maintaining that faith precedes regeneration.

However, when we consider the teaching on this issue as found in John’s record of Jesus’ discussion with Nicodemus, we see the emphasis that Jesus places on regeneration as a necessary condition, a sine qua non, for believing in Him. He says to Nicodemus in John 3:3: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” The must-ness of regeneration of which Jesus speaks is necessary for a person to see even the Kingdom of God, let alone to enter it.

The weakness of all semi-Pelagianism is that it invests in the fallen, corrupt flesh of man the power to exercise faith. Here, fallen man is able to come to Christ without regeneration, that is, before regeneration. On the other hand, the axiom that regeneration precedes faith gets to the very heart of the historic issue between Augustinianism and semi-Pelagianism.

In the Augustinian and Reformation view, regeneration is seen first of all as a supernatural work of God. Regeneration is the divine work of God the Holy Spirit upon the minds and souls of fallen people, by which the Spirit quickens those who are spiritually dead and makes them spiritually alive. This supernatural work rescues that person from his bondage to sin and his moral inability to incline himself towards the things of God.

Secondly, regeneration is a monergistic work. “Monergistic” means that it is the work of one person who exercises his power. In the case of regeneration, it is God alone who is able, and it is God alone who performs the work of regenerating the human soul. The work of regeneration is not a joint venture between the fallen person and the divine Spirit; it is solely the work of God.

Thirdly, the monergistic work of regeneration by the Holy Spirit is an immediate work. It is immediate with respect to time, and it is immediate with respect to the principle of operating without intervening means. The Holy Spirit does not use something apart from His own power to bring a person from spiritual death to spiritual life, and when that work is accomplished, it is accomplished instantaneously.

Fourthly, the work of regeneration is effectual. That is, when the Holy Spirit regenerates a human soul, the purpose of that regeneration is to bring that person to saving faith in Jesus Christ. Regeneration is more than giving a person the possibility of having faith, it gives him the certainty of possessing that saving faith.

The result of our regeneration is first of all faith, which then results in justification and adoption into the family of God. Nobody is born into this world a child of the family of God. We are born as children of wrath. The only way we enter into the family of God is by adoption, and that adoption occurs when we are united to God’s only begotten Son by faith.

Finally, it’s important to see that regeneration is a gift that God disposes sovereignly to all of those whom He determines to bring into His family.


Nate said...

Heavy stuff, what is your opinion?

Samantha said...

I agree.

When Jesus went out teaching, He taught in parables, so that the Truth was hidden from their eyes. Even the disciples weren't given knowledge of who Christ really was until He revealed it to them.

Faith can only come from some sort of mighty change in the heart. It's when the veil is lifted, then we believe. But it must be an act of God...there is no way the natural man can believe by himself. :D

Nate said...

I agree, what of this statement? "Thirdly, the monergistic work of regeneration by the Holy Spirit is an immediate work. It is immediate with respect to time, and it is immediate with respect to the principle of operating without intervening means. The Holy Spirit does not use something apart from His own power to bring a person from spiritual death to spiritual life, and when that work is accomplished, it is accomplished instantaneously." Many pastors say that the gift of the holy spirit is given when one accepts Jesus. How then can the Holy Spirit create the regeneration ahead of time? Just looking for your thoughts.

Samantha said...

1 Corinthians 2:14
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

The Holy Spirit must lift the veil from the "natural man's" eyes before he can trust Christ for salvation.

The idea that the HS comes after one "accepts" (I really hate using that word...) Christ doesn't make any sense. If one could "accept" Christ before the HS's work, then we could argue that man can come to Christ by his own power.

And we know that that is not possible :D

Nate said...

So when does the Holy Spirit start to work in a person? (I truly hate the "Accepts Christ" as well. It just seemed easier to get my point across that way.)

Samantha said...

Ephesians 1:13-14
In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.


Samantha said...

Nate said...

Sorry I have been busy with a new job. "I am the way, the truth and the life." When Jesus completed his time on the Earth. He promised us "The Truth", which is the Holy Spirit. A measure was poured out to ALL men on the day of pentecost. It is how God can do the regeneration before the acceptance of Jesus as the Christ and, the Holy Spirit sealing them to God. Since the Holy Spirit is already in them, it can convict them, and bring them a desire for God. As you so readily point out, Jesus "wiped away the sins of the world." Taking us away from the law based faith. (Most call works based faith) To grace based faith, or salvation through faith in Jesus.

Samantha said...

No, no no. The Holy Spirit was not given to ALL men. God enlightens who He intends to save, not all men, everywhere.

If that were so, Jesus' death was not sufficient enough to save the "whole world."

It's not that it cannot be sufficient, it's that God chose to make His sacrifice sufficient for His elect. :D

Congrats on the new job!

Nate said...

Actually in the greek, the terminology is a corporate dispersal of the holy spirit. For Jesus did not die just for some but for all. He does not withold his blessings from any who seek him out. He forgave the sins of the whole world for all time. "that whosoever believeth in him, shall not perish but have ever lasting life." John 3:16.5 It is for everyone and anyone who believes in him.

I knew today would be the last time that I came to your site to leave a comment. I know that John Piper is a very intelligent man, and very devout. But in wanting the truth to be spoken, I will let you know that Calvinism is very Jehovah's Witness. They believe that only 144,000 people will be allowed in to heaven. The elect. Jesus died for all. Not just some. Being a believer and a servant of God should be enough on its own, without being made into an exclusive club that was decided before the world began. If that was the case, God would have never formed the Levites as the missionary priests of the Isrealites. He is powerful enough to have his elect taken care of without going out to the world. Missionaries would be worthless, whoever convinced you to understand grace, was not needed. God doesn't need our help. He does it his way, as it pleases him. It pleased him to forgive, love, and give everyone a chance.

Here is some truth. See if anywhere in the bible it promises that believers will go to heaven. And the passage must state something to the effect, "if you believe in Jesus, you will go to heaven." Not my fathers house either. People can have many houses in many different places. Tom Cruise has them in Italy, California, and 3 or 4 others. Doesn't mean they are in heaven. The only thing that we are promised as belivers, is to be allowed into the Kingdom of God that will be set up on Earth for the thousand year reign.

I would like to thank you for the thoughts and study you provoked in me. It helped me grow spiritually. You are an intelligent, and well spoken woman. Maybe a bit hard on yourself, but that is just because you want to do so well. I am a perfectionist too, and never satified with my efforts either. I hope you, your husband, and your dog have a wonderful life together.

Also I buried this down a ways so that hopefully you would see it before anyone else, and decide what you would like to do with it.
Love in the Christ.