Regeneration Precedes Faith Temporally (In Time)?

Discussion in 'Calvinism & The Doctrines of Grace' started by Alexander, Aug 5, 2017.

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  1. Alexander

    Alexander Puritan Board Freshman

    So, I am not a Primitive Baptist. I am a Particular Baptist and hold to the London Baptist Confession. Nevertheless, I still get confused over multiple things I see in the Bible. It seems as if certain people were born again/regenerated/quickened long before they even heard the Gospel and believed. For a few examples that this website ( lists...

    What would you say about examples like that? Particularly Cornelius and John the Baptist.
  2. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    You are referring to a logical order, not temporal.
  3. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    Is Regeneration the same as salvation?
  4. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritanboard Commissioner

    In the Presbyterian/paedo fold, it is not unreasonable (especially since scripture shows examples of and it is God's prerogative) to subscribe to such treatments. Even though we all would agree that the sign and thing signified are not one and the same, this does not mean that God cannot use water to regenerate his sheep and sometimes He does. Consider Abraham was considered righteous even before receiving the sign. If God wills it, he can do this with an elect child in the womb or an elect adult, prior to hearing the gospel message; after all, a gospel message that is heard by an unregenerate man is not efficacious.
  5. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritanboard Commissioner

    Yes and no. Many profound men of the past use the term regeneration interchangeably with the whole ordo; meaning, that yes it means salvation. However, if we look at the order of salvation, there is much more than just regeneration when it comes to salvation.
  6. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Faith is the bridge which connects us to Christ.

    We ought not to expect to ever meet a faithless-but-regenerate person out there.

    Regeneration is prior logically...this doesn't mean it occurs first. As Spurgeon said, when God moves the wheel, all the spokes move at once.
  7. Joshua

    Joshua Administrator Staff Member

    Without regeneration, there can be no saving faith.

    "Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." - John 3
  8. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    I agree with the Spurgeon quote. I have always had a hard time accepting the notion that someone people were regenerated years before they exercised saving faith.
  9. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    The instrumentality of Faith

    Chapter 14, “Of Saving Faith”, in both the Westminster Confession of Faith as well as the 1689 Confession of Faith, summarizes the role of faith as an instrument through which God saves the Elect: "The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word..."

    The Belgic Confession (Article 2) explains further:

    “Therefore we justly say with Paul, that we are justified by faith alone, or by faith without works. However, to speak more clearly, we do not mean that faith itself justifies us, for it is only an instrument with which we embrace Christ our Righteousness. But Jesus Christ, imputing to us all His merits, and so many holy works which He hath done for us and in our stead, is our Righteousness. And faith is an instrument that keeps us in communion with Him in all His benefits…”

    Below is an explanation concerning the instrumentality of faith that I sent to one Primitive Baptist man who vigorously denied this truth, calling it a form of “works-righteousness.” Examine my explanation yourself to see if it accords with Scripture:

    “The Elect are justified by or through faith (Rom. 1:17; 3:25, 28, 30; 5:1; Eph. 2:8; Gal. 2:16; 3:11, 24; Phil 3:9).
    Faith is not the reason or ultimate grounds for the Elect’s justification. We are not saved because of our faith or on the grounds of our faith, as if we can produce a certain sufficient measure of this substance from within ourselves which God would then honor and allow us into heaven. This would be to make faith into a meritorious act and our work of producing enough faith of sufficient quality to be a work of righteousness, able to commend us before God. This would be yet another form of works-righteousness.

    This may be part of your zeal in denying “duty-faith” – your legitimate desire to guard against any form of “works-righteousness.”

    However, though we are not saved because of our faith, faith is the instrument through which God’s Elect are united to Christ. The expressions are thus—dia pisteos, ek pisteos, and pistei, which can all be translated as “by means of” or “through” faith.

    Faith is the instrument which lays hold of Jesus. God, through free grace, enables a person to believe. It is a gift of grace, yet God does not believe for the man; the man must believe.

    Therefore, being an instrument and channel, faith does not come at some later time after a person is united to Christ, but a person is united to Christ by faith itself. Therefore, though it is proper to speak of a logical priority of regeneration over faith/conversion, God monergistically taking initiative to move the man, let us not mistake a logical priority with a chronological one; there is no perceptible chronological gap in time, nor are there any who are regenerate but who have yet to exercise saving faith. Everywhere we see faith we will see the new birth, and where we see the new birth we will see faith.

    Again, Ek pisteos (“by” or “from” or “out of” faith) describes faith as that which logically precedes a person’s justification. Faith is the gift of God which is given to us so that we may cling to Christ, though it is never the efficient or ultimate cause of justification, the dative use of the noun pistis being used in an instrumental sense (see also Rom. 3:28).”

    Likewise, not only faith but repentance as well, is an essential grace-gift that the Elect must possess for salvation. Though faith and repentance are not produced within ourselves by our own merits, we still must possess these gifts of grace, wrought by the work of Christ for His Elect on the Cross, for us to see heaven.

    Thus, we see that an “instrument” is not the effective cause of a thing, and that God unites us to Christ by the instrumentality of faith upon the hearing of the Word. To believe these things is not “works-righteousness” but are truths defended both biblically and historically.

    The error of placing regeneration chronologically prior to faith:

    Placing regeneration at some point in chronological time prior to faith is another error.

    Perhaps this error is an understandable reaction to the prevalent error in many churches today. Many falsely believe that mankind summons up some measure of man-produced faith, which then commends them to God in such a way that God then grants them the new birth. Thus, our faith produced from within causes God to regenerate us in a synergistic cooperation. Thus, man’s initiative is critical in salvation.

    This common view is contrary to Scripture, which speak of a divine monergism, whereby God is the one who initiates the work as well as completes it (Philippians 1:6). Thus, the new birth, regeneration, is the cause and not the effect of our faith. Thus, many sovereign grace theologians rightly defend the logical priority of regeneration over faith.

    However, some have mistaken a logical priority with a chronological one. Instead of seeing regeneration/conversion as a “package deal” even as God takes the initiative, some have defended a scheme of salvation whereby regeneration occurs chronologically first and then faith comes later (in time).

    The truth is this: There are no regenerated people walking around that lack faith. We should not expect to encounter faithless persons who nonetheless possess regenerate souls. God moves the wheel, yet all the spokes of the wheel turn at once. A logical priority does not necessitate a gap in chronological time. Some Primitive Baptists speak of regenerate people walking around that just need to know that they are already regenerate. However, if you are saved, you surely know it – now – through faith in Christ.
  10. Alexander

    Alexander Puritan Board Freshman

    I'm actually not :)
  11. Alexander

    Alexander Puritan Board Freshman

    I wouldn't equate the two if regeneration precedes faith chronologically. Nevertheless, the Scripture says we are saved by the washing of regeneration and I would say that is only reconcilable with justification by faith if they are simultaneous.
  12. Alexander

    Alexander Puritan Board Freshman

    Now, I thought that was an amazing response. Let me ask you. How would you deal with Cornelius? Doesn't it seem that he was regenerated before he believed the Gospel?
  13. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    “And they of the circumcision that believed were amazed, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 10:45).

    Acts 11:13-14, "send men to Joppa, and call for Simon whose surname is Peter,
    Who will tell you words by which you and all your house WILL be saved."

    “If then God gave unto them the like gift as he did also unto us, WHEN WE BELIEVED on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I, that I could withstand God?” (Acts 11:17).

    “And God, who knoweth the heart, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Spirit, even as he did unto us and he made no distinction between us and them, CLEANSING THEIR HEARTS BY FAITH.” (Acts 15:8-9).
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2017
  14. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    You appear to be engaging what is classically called ordo salutis in reference to soteriology. By removing temporality, it allows observations regarding what scripture reveal as a man is given a heart of flesh and new life. Nowhere does the scripture reveal man as partially saved. He is regenerated, hence able to respond in faith. From a human perspective, this is all at once. From a logical perspective, election, calling, regeneration, faith, and so forth, follow a logical order.
  15. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritanboard Commissioner

    This rails against the Paedo principle that infants can be saved in the womb or at the baptismal font if God so wills-and He does at times. If one needs to hear the gospel, i.e. Rom 10 for conversion, it would seem quite possible that there are people who are regenerate, yet not converted as they must hear the gospel, one they can now clearly see, i.e. John 3, after they are given eyes; and this may happen years later when the infant has some cognizance.
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  16. kainos01

    kainos01 Puritan Board Senior

    How can we say that those infants do not have faith? Simply because they aren't cognizant, as we understand that in the material world? The WCF understands Scripture to make clear provision for those who are, in fact, not able to hear the gospel and yet are saved (10.3):

    Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit, who worketh when, and where, and how he pleaseth. So also are all other elect persons who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2017
  17. VictorBravo

    VictorBravo Administrator Staff Member

    Just to round things out, the 1689 LBCF confesses the same thing exactly, in chapter X.
  18. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritanboard Commissioner

    Let me clarify: In one sense, I agree-forgive me for not clarifying that out of the shoot; in another sense, I disagree:

    In regard to these citations in the WCF and LBC:
    These citations presuppose certain things: For instance, that these 'elect' infants will not live passed infancy or the womb
    or, deaf and dumbness-where an elect person does not possess cognizance and never will.

    Since men are saved the same way, those that are predestined to live beyond the scope of what I said above, they MUST be saved in the same way as everyone else. The above are not typical and hence, God must act supernatually in these cases.

    It tells us in Rom's 10:

    You might ask, "Who is to say God/Christ Himself doesn't bring the gospel message to some people-he has the right to do so!" God has ordained that this is the Preachers job. I will grant you, nothing ties the hands of God/Christ-but it would be not typical if He did so as the means of grace is in preaching and that is how men are saved, by hearing the word preached;

    The above portion shows that a preacher brings the message to the capable. As well, it shows a sending...

    So, yea, in the cases of an elect person(s) not being able to mentally ascend to any spiritual truth from regeneration (seeing), due to the idea that they do not have the capacity and never will, i.e. deaf, dumb, death in infancy, these, God/Christ goes to personally, bringing the tidings of good news to them as to not frustrate the decree of God in the elect; otherwise, it is how the scriptures show.
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  19. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    No work, no understanding, no act of belief can save us -- it is by grace alone. The scriptures indeed say God will cause the deaf to hear and the dumb to sing, by supernatural grace. I would not consider the pre-birth child or the handicapped to be exceptions, but rather normative for all of us. As fallen humans, we have more in common with the weakest of men. Only by giving us a new heart can we have faith, trust in God, or sing his praises. That is true of all fallen image-bearers.
  20. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritanboard Commissioner

    No one ever said anything to attack the doctrine of justification by faith alone; Reality is, men must accept, men must repent, men must receive and men must believe. They must, of course by God's power and grace toward dead sinners by regeneration and conversion, ascend to biblical facts about Christ and their sin and this is only done by hearing the gospel message and God's miraculous power and grace.
  21. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Senior

    There are some obvious problems with the writings in the OP.

    Election is unconditional. Salvation is conditioned on faith/repentance. The above conflates the two.

    John was regenerated and had faith before he was born. The assumption that a baby is not able to exercise faith limits the instrumental cause of our justification (faith) to our human intellects.

    He heard enough of the gospel. He was reading Isaiah! Men of faith had the gospel in the OT (Gal. 3:8). This is not proof of salvation apart from faith at all!

    Again, where does it say that he had no faith? Certainly he was very weak in faith.

    The writer has equated "love" with "election." This is only a problem for those who believe that God does not have any kind of love for unbelievers or those who He determines to pass by in His decree. This is simply a false dichotomy that is demonstrably unscriptural.

    In this section, covenant individuals is conflated with covenant people. Sometimes scripture talks about election of individuals and election of a community. An elect community is not necessarily made up of 100% elect individuals.

    Same problem as above.

    Again, faith is not depended on a verbal confession. The confession is the fruit of faith for those able to speak. This is no proof that infants cannot or do not have faith.
  22. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritanboard Commissioner

    As I said above, 'faith comes by hearing the word of God'. Yes, God can give faith to infants outside of the normal means of grace, i.e. He Himself going to the individual, but why would He when He has ordained and decreed that it happens under the preaching of the word by His ordained servants, especially in cases where the individual is decreed to live a fruitful, full life?
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2017
  23. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritanboard Commissioner

    I believe it beneficial to make mention of the calls: Inward vs outward. God can call inwardly men (regeneration) and then at a later time, under the preaching of the word, call the person outwardly (conversion). So, if you are saying that God calls infants to Himself, outside of the outward call, that would be problematic in my opinion. If you make the distinction and that is what you mean towards those infants that are decreed to live a fruitful, full life, I can agree with the idea of 'seed faith'. But the washing of water, i.e. the word (by the Preacher) will be the germinating factor and bring about life to that seed.
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2017
  24. Alexander

    Alexander Puritan Board Freshman

    Right. I agree. Thank you for your response. Question: While it is true that infants in the womb might have faith, they certainly don't have NT faith in the Gospel, right?
  25. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritanboard Commissioner

    There is only one type of faith.
  26. Alexander

    Alexander Puritan Board Freshman

    What do you mean? Of course faith always consists of understanding and assenting. I agree. But the object of the faith changes. The object of the faith for the infants in the womb, was it the Gospel? Thanks brother.
  27. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritanboard Commissioner

    Yes, When we're speaking of salvation, no matter who it is, it has to be faith in the gospel message alone as it only saves.
  28. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritanboard Commissioner

    Consider the infant dying in the womb; God comes to that infant, regenerates the individual, preaches the word to them and converts them. This child, prior to entering glory will have a better theology onboard than any of us while we still breath. Surely, they understand the gospel better than we do, even now.

    Luke 18:27 And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.
  29. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Senior

    How would NT faith differ from OT faith? If a) faith is in God and b) Jesus is God, the only difference would be the quantity of knowledge to which we assent, not a different object of faith.
  30. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    The case of Lazarus raised is helpful for observing (by an outstanding and extraordinary physical miracle) the ordinary-miraculous event of a soul given life. The word of Christ is performative, it gives what it commands: faith in that word, which the now-living ears hear, and obey. How did the once-dead ears hear anything? The word forced a hearing upon them, and a wonderful gift it was.

    So, the word acts as a means--what we call the ordinary means of grace. Not because the words are ordinary, but because God attaches his promise to them, and asks ordinary people to employ them; and he will then use them for his ends. Also,"ordinary" because the divinely chosen means are not "flashy" or aimed at the "gifted."

    We need to have care that extraordinary miracles of given-faith are not leveraged against the ordinary means of grace. It is not to be expected by any of us that regenerated people are just living among us, but not exercising faith. What are they "seeing" with the eyes of the soul, then? They aren't living with their spiritual eyes closed. That is no different from blindness. A newborn baby is struggling to see, he's not got his eyes glued shut; and if he did, it would be the same as being blind, for all it mattered.

    If I, as a Presbyterian, appeal to John the Baptist for proof that infants can believe; it is not for establishing or proving that what might happen is standard-operating-procedure. It is for establishing God's freedom, and offering a rational justification (if one were needed) for baptizing an infant. We actually do that by commandment, and not on a presumed rationalist basis.

    But, if God begins a work of spiritual life in an infant on the day he's baptized--a work that takes in realtime maybe 10yrs, for example--we still identify the time of his exercised-faith as his "new birth." It's the difference between conception and parturition. The mysteries of life and spiritual-life are beyond us. What about still-birth? We use these sorts of analogies to help us draw distinctions between those who seem to start a life with Christ, but fall away.

    We don't know the moment God begins his regenerating work in his elect. But we don't make it our business to judge of a man's regenerated state. We are justified by grace through faith. Effectual calling produces repentance and faith which unites us to Christ. Justification and sanctification (also called vivification, showing that it is whole-cloth with regeneration, hence those terms being applied in bygone days to the whole life of faith) these two are the two-fold benefit of union with Christ. It is all BY FAITH.

    Faith may be great or small, but its saving nature is by virtue of its Object. All that is necessary is a child-like, even infant-like faith; but it has to be in Christ. Or there is no salvation. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. It is really useless to talk about allegedly regenerated people who have been given no sight of Christ.
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