Is prior regeneration of the heart required for a man to have faith that Christ is the Messiah who can cover his sin and save him, or does regeneration follow or come along with our faith?
ESV - 5 He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.
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Regeneration (paliggenesia) is a term only used twice in scripture, in Tit 3:5 and Matt 19:28. It figuratively means a spiritual rebirth, or literally the Messianic restoration. S. Michael Houdmann has a great explanation of what regeneration means: https://ebible.com/questions/3487-what-is-regeneration-according-to-the-bible Basically, regeneration is the believer's new life, or 'new birth,' in Christ as we die with Christ in baptism and rise to new life by the Spirit. The popular phrase 'born again' sums up this aspect of our new life in Christ; although we will not literally be born again in new spiritual bodies until the judgement, we receive God's Holy Spirit to help us walk in holiness now. As to when it occurs, scripture gives ample evidence that this newness of life immediately follows faith, it does not precede it. The washing of rebirth and renewal follows our response to the gospel in faith. "...Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin...For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace...But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." - excerpts from Rom 6 Regeneration in Tit 3:5, and our new life in Christ, are linked with the baptism of the Holy Spirit which believers receive. "So if God gave them the same gift [the Holy Spirit] he gave us who have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?" When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.” Acts 11:17-18 "...There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John’s baptism,” they replied. Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all." Acts 19:1-6 "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us walk in step with the Spirit." Gal 5:25 The indwelling Holy Spirit is one of the promises of God that is immediately fulfilled when we believe. The Holy Spirit acts as a down payment or security of other future promises to be fulfilled at the judgement, such as the new spiritual bodies we will one day receive, because we have the Holy Spirit with us on Earth, now, to help us walk in newness of life. (II Cor 1:20-22) "...there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death...You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit...And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you." - excerpts from Rom 8:1-18
We might ask: Are we capable of regenerating (changing) our own “nature” in order to choose God? Or, is that “nature” of man first regenerated (changed) by the Holy Spirit (God) in order to choose God? As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. (Romans 3:10, KJV) As to regeneration we might say a quickening as to make alive in a spiritual sense; to communicate a principle of grace to. And you [hath he quickened], who were dead in trespasses and sins; (Ephesians 2:1, KJV) Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) (Ephesians 2:5, KJV). That state of grace whereby the Spirit of God operates in man to quicken or regenerate those who are dead in sin. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8, KJV) We might consider the following analogy from Christian Apologetics Research Ministries (CARM) regarding: Does regeneration precede or follow faith? “In a light bulb, electricity must be in place in order for light to occur. But, it is not true that light must in place for electricity to occur. The light is dependent on the electricity, not the other way around. Therefore, the electricity is logically first, but not temporally first because when the electricity is present, light is the necessary and simultaneous result. Likewise, regeneration must be in place in order for believing to occur. When regeneration is in place, faith is the necessary and simultaneous result. Finally, when we say logical order we must clarify that it is not an order of temporality, but of logical necessity. Logical priority is different than temporal priority. As with the light bulb and electricity, one is logically prior to the other even though they are simultaneous. If, however, regeneration preceded faith temporally, let's say by five seconds, then we would have someone who's regenerate, but also not a believer for about five seconds. That is problematic. Likewise, if faith precedes regeneration, let's say by five seconds, then we would have someone who is a believer, but is also not regenerate for about five seconds. See the problem? This is why it seems better to say that the order of regeneration preceding faith or faith proceeding regeneration ought not to be a temporal one, but a logical one. It makes more sense to say that regeneration must be in place for a person to believe, but belief is a necessary result of that regeneration.” Difference in views can greatly effect the conduct of a ministry. If a ministry views “man” capable to “act” outside his nature and choose God, then “pragmatism” becomes a possible tool in trying to determine what can be done to attract and sway, but if God is viewed as the one needing to change man’s nature - then they just Preach the Word and leave it in the Hands of God. Jesus’ words to Nicodemus, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. (John 3:6, KJV). I also, thought the following at one time in my life: “At one time I assumed that even though I was a sinner, a person born of the flesh and living in the flesh, I still had a little island of righteousness, a tiny deposit of spiritual power left within my soul to enable me to respond to the Gospel on my own”. R C Sproul For a better understanding view gotquestions on “Monergism and Synergism”.
Faith cometh from hearing, hearing from the word of God. Ephesians 1:13 In whom ye also trusted, after ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also AFTER ye believed ye were sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise. We are not regenerated by the Holy Spirit until we believe the gospel. That Christ died to pay our sin debt in full, and rose again on the third day. Then we are given the Holy Spirit. Regeneration and born again mean the same thing.
The ordo salutis does not seem to have a timeline, or temporal sequence of events, but it is a logical order. In Titus 3:5 we see a sequence in the language that is not necessarily a timeline, but it is a sequence. "he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit," In Romans 8:29-30 again a sequence. “And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified” (v. 30). Since God exists in eternity, foreknowledge and predestination are not sequential actions on His part, but logical aspects of His decree. God acts and the the individual respons. God calls us and produces regeneration in us. We we respond with repentance, faith, and obedience. When God calls us we are immediately regenerated, and immediately we are given faith by the Holy Spirit, and we turn from sin to God. All this in one action, which justifies us. These are logical steps in the same event.
It is wonderful to know (Ephesians) that God foreknew us. Because He is beyond time and knows all things so before we were born, God knew us in the womb and predestined us to be holy. (Calvinism) On the other hand until we take the step of BELIEVING HIM we cannot be born of the Spirit and regenerated. We are reconciled to Christ in our imperfection, but once cleansed by the blood of Jesus, we are redeemed, reborn and ready to be redeveloped progressively (Sanctified) Isn't God wonderful, unfathomable, so loving and kind that he sends the Paraclete (Holy Spirit) to walk with us in guidance and encouragement until we see Jesus finally, face to face and live with the Trinity forever.
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