Posted by: reformbama | October 23, 2010

“Q And A From Reformation Theology”

How Can Regeneration Precede Faith in Light of Eph 1:13?

Visitor:

If regeneration precedes faith, how can we explain Ephesians 1:13? This verse lists hearing, believing and sealing with the Holy Spirit in that order. If being sealed with the Holy Spirit is the same thing as being indwelled by the Holy Spirit, or if this happens when the heart is changed (ie., with regeneration, as per Ezekiel 36:26-27), doesn’t that mean that regeneration follows belief rather than precedes it?
Response:
Paul’s main point of the first 12 verses in Ephesians is to show that all spiritual blessings we have are because of the sovereign grace of Jesus Christ ALONE, in Whom we are predestined and adopted as sons, thereby making the Spirit’s work of grace, by definition, causally prior to our faith. But, if this were not enough, Jesus himself explicitly teaches that regeneration precedes faith in John 6:63-65 & 37. Take the time to meditate on that passage in context. Are you suggesting that Paul is teaching in Ephesians 1:13 that a person can come to faith in Jesus apart from the Holy Spirit? That he can simply rely on his own native resources apart from grace? That the spiritually blind do not need their eyes opened, that the deaf do not need their ears unplugged, that the hard-hearted can make their own heart of stone into a heart of flesh, without God’s help? In other words, specifically related to you question about Eph 1:13, are you suggesting that because the Spirit comes to indwell the believer after he believes and is justified, that the Spirit does not also work in people prior to this? That the Spirit is dormant and is waiting for a graceless person to believe first? The Biblical evidence is so overwhelming that the Spirit also works prior to belief that this should not even be a debate in the church. The believer hears only because the Holy Spirit opens his ears. The sinner believes only because the Spirit has worked faith in Him. They “are born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:13). That which is born of flesh is flesh, but that which is born of Spirit is Spirit (John 3:7). “The Spirit gives life the flesh counts for nothing.” (6:65). The “flesh”means the person without the Spirit who can neither know nor understand spiritual truth, and faith, therefore is not born of man’s will.

Why do you “thank” God for your conversion? It is because the Bible gives witness that God was entirely responsible for it. You thank God because you know your repenting and believing cannot be ascribed to your own wisdom, sound judgment, or good sense. Jesus Christ gets ALL the glory. Even the very humility you have to believe is a gift of grace, for what do you have that you did not receive.. Or would you rather tell God that you thank him for everything else, but that your faith is something you came up with on your own??? Jesus Christ is the author and perfecter of our faith. Why do some believe and not others? What makes us to differ? Jesus or something else?

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