Does Regeneration Precede Faith?

April 14, 2016

Leighton Flowers | Professor of Theology
Dallas, TX

**This article was previously posted by Leighton Flowers on his website and is used by permission.

Leighton is: teaching pastor in his local church, an adjunct Professor of Theology, and the Youth Evangelism Director for Texas Baptists.

Learn more about Leighton, HERE.
Follow @soteriology101 on Twitter HERE.
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***Editor’s Note:  Please click on the footnotes in order to follow them as they are not added at the bottom of this article.

Many Calvinists teach that regeneration precedes faith. They say that a person must be born again before he believes. They argue that new life comes before faith.

John Piper, a Calvinistic pastor, puts it this way:

“We can say, first, that regeneration is the cause of faith… Having been born of God results in our believing. Our believing is the immediate evidence of God’s begetting.” [1]

Gordon Olson, a non-Calvinistic scholar, writes:

“Extreme Calvinists put the new birth before faith, since they believe that spiritually dead humans cannot exercise faith and, therefore, need to be born again before they can believe.” [2]

I would not agree with Olson that this doctrine is necessarily an “extreme” form of Calvinism because most of the mainstream Calvinists today do adhere to it. Instead, I would argue that this point has not always been uniformly understood and adopted in the same way by all Calvinists, [3] which is typical with many of the most controversial points within the Calvinistic scheme.[4]

The Calvinistic teaching has wrongly exaggerated the effects of man’s fallen condition resulting in a misinterpretation of man’s responsibility in light of God’s clear revelation. Calvinists say they believe men are “responsible” but they do not mean what most people think when they hear the word “responsible” (able-to-respond freely and thus guilty for that response).

What Calvinists mean is that mankind is justly punished even though they were born “unable-to-respond” willingly to God’s revelation. They do not mean that mankind is morally capable of responding to God’s appeals to be reconciled from their fallen condition (as implied in 2 Cor. 5:20, John 3:16 and elsewhere).

Calvinists insist that man is born dead in sin and therefore “corpse-like” in his abilities to respond to God’s life giving truth. Therefore, according to their logic, God must bring the corpse back to life so that he will certainly believe God’s revealed truth.[5]

Some Calvinists will argue that the order of regeneration and faith is a logical order not a temporal one, meaning that the two happen simultaneously within time.  They teach that at the moment a person is born again he will come to faith. The moment he is regenerated he also places his trust in Christ. It all happens in an instant of time. Yet logically as we think about this transaction, we must put a causal order to it. Does the Bible indicate that a person must be regenerated so that he can believe or does the Bible teach that a person must believe in order to be regenerated? Do we need life in order to believe or do we need to believe in order to have life? That logical order is what is in dispute.

What is not in dispute is that regeneration is the sovereign act of God whereby He imparts His very life and His very nature to the believing sinner (John 1:12-13; Titus 3:5). Man’s first birth is natural; his second birth is spiritual and supernatural. His first birth makes him a member of a fallen race; his second birth makes him a member of a redeemed race. His first birth gives him a depraved nature (Eph. 2:3); his second birth makes him partaker of the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4). The moment a person is born again he receives a new life (John 6:47; 1 John 5:12) and a new position as a child of God (John 1:12; 1 John 3:1-2). In short, he is a new creature in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).[6] We can all affirm these truths.

But what does the Scripture actually say about the logical order of new life and man’s responsibility in attaining it? Which comes first, new life or faith? Let’s observe:

Ezekiel 18:30-32
“Therefore, you Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!”

The order clearly laid out is as follows:

  1. “Repent, Turn away…Rid yourselves…”
  2. “…get a new heart and a new spirit.”

Verse 32 makes it even more simple:

  1. “Repent and…”
  2. “…live!”

Life comes from repentance, not the other way around.

Acts 11:18
When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.”
The order clearly laid out is as follows:

  1. “Repentance unto…”
  2. “…life”

The Gentiles were not granted life unto repentance, but just the opposite according to the text.  And the gospel is the means God grants mankind the ability to believe.  He sent the gospel first to the Jews and then the Gentiles which enabled their faith response (Rom. 1:16, 10:14-17). (Anticipating those who might invoke Act 13:48, please read THIS.)

John 5:40
“yet you refuse to COME TO ME TO HAVE LIFE.”
The order clearly laid out is as follows:

  1. “Come to me…” (through faith)
  2. “…to have life.”

John 6:53
“I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”
The order clearly laid out is as follows:

  1. “Unless you eat…drink” (by faith)
  2. “…you have not life in you.”

John 6:57
“so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.”
The order clearly laid out is as follows:

  1. “the one who feeds on me…” (by faith)
  2. “…will live”

John 20:31
“But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
The order clearly laid out is as follows:

  1. “these are written…” (scriptures)
  2. “…that you may believe…”
  3. “…by believing you may have life…”

Life clearly is a fruit of faith and repentance, not the other way around.

Acts 15:9
“He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith.”
The order clearly laid out is as follows:

  1. “He purified their hearts…”
  2. “…by faith.”

It does not say He purified their hearts by regeneration so as to make them have faith. Clearly a purified heart is a fruit of faith, not the other way around.

John 1:12-13
“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
The right to be born of God is given only to those who believe.

The order clearly laid out is as follows:

  1. “…all who did receive him…who believed…”
  2. “…he gave the right to BECOME children of God…”

You are not even given to right to become a child of God, much less be born again as his child, UNTIL you “receive him” and “believe in his name.” And while placing our trust in Christ is man’s responsibility, the work of regeneration is all of God’s doing. It does not come by way of inheritance, marriage, works or striving (Rom. 9:30-32).

Galatians 3:26
“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus…”
The order clearly laid out is as follows:

  1. “You are all sons of God…”
  2. “…through faith in Christ…”

Obviously, becoming a son (born of God) is a fruit of faith, not the other way around.

John 12:36
“Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.”
The order clearly laid out is as follows:

  1. “Believe in the light…”
  2. “…so that you may become children…”

Ephesians 1:13
“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit…”
The order clearly laid out is as follows:

  1. “when you heard the message of truth…when you believed
  2. “you were included in Christ…you were marked in him…”

For more on how to better understand the biblical doctrine of predestination presented in Ephesians 1, watch this.

Galatians 3:2, 5
“I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard?… So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?”
The order clearly laid out is as follows:

  1. “…received the Spirit…”
  2. “…by believing what you heard…”

2 Corinthians 3:14-16
But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away.Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
The order clearly laid out is as follows:

  1. “…anyone turns to the Lord…” (by faith)
  2. “…the veil is taken away.”

1 Timothy 1:16
“But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.”
The order clearly laid out is as follows:

  1. “…those who would believe in him…”
  2. “…may receive eternal life.”

Colossians 2:12
“…having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.”
The order clearly laid out is as follows:

  1. “…baptism, in which you were also raised…”
  2. “…through your faith…”

James 1:18
“He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.”
The order clearly laid out is as follows:

  1. “…give us brith…”
  2. “…through the word of truth…”

Calvinists teach the word of truth will certainly be rejected by the unregenerate, thus how can the apostle say that the word may be the means of new birth? Birth must precede the word if Calvinism is true, and that is not what the text clearly indicates.

The Philippian jailer inquired, “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). If Paul was Calvinistic he should have replied, “You can do nothing to be saved. You were born corpse-like dead in your sin and a dead man can do nothing.  If God makes you alive then you will be convinced to believe our gospel.” But Paul does not hesitate to simply say, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).  Believe so as to have new life. Repent so as to live!  That is the gospel appeal sent for all to hear it and respond.

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Andrew Barker

I think Gordan Olson is way off the mark when he talks as though only extreme Calvinists talk of a ‘spiritual corpse’. I would suggest this phrase is pretty much mainstream among all Calvinists and Reformed thinkers. I often appears with another of my pet dislikes which is ‘spiritual death’ or ‘spiritually dead’. I did come across one translation which used the term spiritually dead, but it was a ‘youth’ Bible and it’s the only example I’ve ever found. The more you think about it, the more nonsensical this term becomes. Just how can you have a ‘dead’ spirit? When I ask people to define what they mean by this, they sometimes look at me as though I’m daft and come out with gems like, “well, it’s dead”. Yes, exactly! In truth they have no clear understanding of what they actually means. When you then start discussing around the term, you normally find the idea of separation comes in and that’s what I think is meant by the phrase. To be dead in our sin means we are separated from God. But if our spirit is ‘dead’ then it’s not a spirit is it? I’ll leave someone else to define it maybe.

Dead or alive, nobody has ever found this spiritual corpse in scripture. The greek word used most of the time is nekros, which when used as a noun is a ‘corpse’ but for most part is in the adjectival form which suggests a metaphorical usage. There is a perfectly good greek word for corpse ptoma and this is used by Mark when Joseph of Arimathea asks for the body of Jesus.

There are a number of reasons why is this important. We do not have the body of Jesus and for good reason. It doesn’t exist. Nor is the body that he (Jesus) now has, the same one as he had before. It is a ‘new’ body. I’m pointing this out now, because this is also true of us. Not that we currently have this ‘new’ type of body, but it’s what is promised to all those who believe and trust in him. When we are saved, we are made ‘new creations’ in Him we are not recreated or indeed regenerated. I appreciate this goes against the grain for many people, but all of the salient passages on salvation speak of ‘new’ birth or ‘new’ creation. If you prefer to use regeneration as a synonym, then fine, but don’t forget that it means ‘new birth’ rather than reformed old which is what you get in regeneration. As Jesus said, you don’t put new wine in old bottles! The old has gone, everything (this will include our bodies) has become ‘new’. “We don’t want no regeneration!”


A question I’ve always had. What does being born-again enable people to do that they couldn’t do before being born again? Assuming they were able to turn from sin and exercise saving faith without being born again, what greater thing are they capable of than that after being born again?

    Andrew Barker

    Kevin: I’ve no idea how long you’ve had this question but it shows a lack of understanding similar to those people who asked Jesus what they should ‘do’ to do the works of God. Jesus explained that all they should ‘do’ is believe. Jesus answered your question in John 14:12 “he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater [works] than these he will do”. So, there you have it. Greater works than Jesus! Paul is also quoted in Gal 2:20 as saying the [life] which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

    So to summarize the answer to your question: greater works than Jesus because we live by faith.

    Johnathan Pritchett

    The Bible has a lot and varied language for “transformation” (what most systematics refer to as “sanctification,” but incorrectly so, as Michael Bird often points out).

    “Born Again,” new birth,” etc. is really language about kinship (specifically fictive kinship) more than transformation. Being born into the family of God, as opposed to the one of natural birth, gives one a new familial pedigree that has an ascribed honor status attached to it along with other benefits (including new creation/spiritual transformation) of being a part of that family.

    Years of theological reflection and embellishment and confusion has taken its obvious implication, namely birth being familial language, and made it primarily about other things that the Bible has other language for.

    Hope that helps.

    doug sayers

    Kevin, I think you raise a fair question for both sides of the debate over the nature and timing of the new birth. It is helpful to get a biblical understanding of what the new birth *is* and then look at what it produces in the life. Two good places to start are Titus 3:5, where regeneration is described as a *washing*; and the second is Col 2:13 where our *quickening* (from being dead in sin) is seen to be the result of our forgiveness and the blotting out of our sins.

    To reinforce Leighton’s point, it is hard to imagine why someone who has already experienced the washing of regeneration would still need to be justified by faith. (?) This is another place where the Calvinistic inference, regarding the order of salvation, hits a wall.

    To your question, the new birth (the reception and germination of the seed of the Word into our hearts) enables us to both put off sin and put on Christ in ways we could not as unbelievers. The love behind the gospel is a powerful motivator and enabler to our sanctification.

Robert Vaughn

Leighton, I have disagreed with several things you have written, including the extent you support libertarian free will and the extent you disagree with total depravity. Comments on those kinds of disagreements put me, in the eyes of many commenters at SBC Today, in the Calvinistic camp. But the clear biblical evidence that the order is repentance & faith and then the new birth (among other things) keeps me out of that camp. To me the evidence is overwhelming in the way the Bible addresses belief and salvation. It is unfortunate that your post here doesn’t include the link to David Allen’s article (on your site) where he addresses that there are no biblical texts that that support the new birth preceding faith, and that there are many biblical texts that support faith preceding the new birth. (The difference in the “are no” and “are”, to me, is that the the new birth preceding faith texts depend on presuppositional reasoning while the faith preceding the new birth texts fit with the plain reading.)

    Robert Vaughn

    That last part — “it is unfortunate” — doesn’t sound like I meant it. I mean to say it would be nice to have a quick link to Allen’s piece. It addresses verses used to support regeneration before faith, which supplements the texts you have given here.

    Dennis Lee Dabney

    Brother Robert Vaughan,

    Not sure what your position is regarding libertarian free will and total depravity. From your opening statement it appears to lean toward the Reformed position. Please correct me if not.

    If it does, Leighton’s combined offering here reveals once again the total error of Calvinism. Total depravity and determinism as taught by our Reformed Brothers has already “fallen” as the other doctrines presented by the T.U. L. I. P. in light of these Scriptures above.


      Robert Vaughn

      Brother Dabney, thanks for the inquiry. I’ll try to explain. I believe in total depravity. I believe that man is born with a nature that cannot respond to God and does not want to respond to God. I mean much more than that they are just inclined to sin, but I don’t mean what some other people mean. I believe that under the conviction of the Holy Spirit (not regeneration that precedes faith) that people can be willing and able to freely repent and believe. As far as libertarian free will it seems to me that this is extended by many far beyond what I am willing to agree with, in a way that binds God to respond to men’s actions, but not men to God’s. I do believe that man has a will and is able to choose. For example, “choose this day whom you will serve” (Joshua). Hope this helps.

        Dennis Lee Dabney


        Thank you kindly for your response. I really didn’t expect more than your reply which is in accord with Holy Scripture.

        Sometimes we are all guilty of pressing too much upon certain text and especially upon our God as we explain certain doctrines to make them fit into our theological bag in our camp.

        Continue to lift Him up as He carries you, and one day “bring” us all before His Father and our Father with exceeding great joy.


          Dennis Lee Dabney

          Brother Dabney, thanks for the inquiry. I’ll try to explain. I believe in total depravity. I believe that man is born with a nature that cannot respond to God and does not want to respond to God.


          I received a phone call in the midst of reading your post. The copied portion is where I missed that man cannot respond to God due to His Adamic nature nor does he want to.

          We have many instances of those such as Rahab the harlot who responded to the voice of the Lord through His movement into the land of His promise and their future.

          From both Cain and his brother Abel the Lord expected no less than total obedience in response to His Word whether spoken from His mouth or through Adam and his wife Eve their parents.

          Total depravity can mean no more or less than it meant in the fallen lives of our first parents.

          Dead in trespasses and sins mean separation from God and unable to do anything about without the assistance of the Sovereign.

          However many have responded favorably to the known will of God before repentance and faith.

          Lord willing we can take this up next week. Perhaps I missed something in your comment.


            Robert Vaughn

            Brother, thanks for the further inquiry. I’ll try to explain. Yes, I believe that in his Adamic nature man has inability and indisposition for responding to God. This is based on statements in the Bible, such as John 6:44. “Can” speaks of ability. But that is not universal without exception, for that very verse states an exception. I do not conclude that the nature must be replaced with a new nature before there can be any kind of conscious or intentional response of man to God — but that God must initiate and man responds to what God initiates. I believe there are many things that God has put in place to act upon the will of depraved man, including conviction of the Spirit and the truth, authority of various kinds, such as parental, legal, community standards, peer pressure, fear of punishment, etc. The words and logic here may not satisfy those who hold various systems of belief, but I am trying more to be faithful to specific scriptures in context than to try to make them fit an established system. I have no problem believing total depravity, that man does not have a completely free will, while agreeing with you that dead in trespasses and sins means separation from God and unable to do anything about it without the work of God — and also that many do respond in ways favorable to the known will of God apart from the response of repentance and faith. Nevertheless it is always the initiated work of God that brings man to faith in Christ and not man naturally self seeking of God.

              Dennis Lee Dabney

              Robert V,

              Thank you for your response.


              Dennis Lee Dabney

              A couple of Sundays ago after the message a lady gave my wife a note to give to me.

              She said, Legion couldn’t keep the Demoniac of Gadara from coming to the Lord Jesus Christ. She said if 6826 demons give or take a few unclean spirits couldn’t keep the man I surnamed “Crazy Willy” from coming to Him, nothing could.

              This dear Sister was not very far from the Truth.

              The Truth of the matter is this, before “Willy” saw the Lord Jesus from afar, the Lord Jesus had already seen him from afar off, even from the other side of the Sea.

              Before Ole ” Crazy Willy ” came to the Lord Jesus Christ, The Lord Jesus had come to the country of the Gadarenes, He had already come to seek and to save that which was lost. He had already come to see about Willy.

              The people of the country of the Gadarenes didn’t want The Lord Jesus Christ on their coast.

              So He left Ole “Willy” behind as a testimony of His greatest and mercy and he preached the Lord Jesus until God the Father received the all of the glory and Willy got satisfaction!

              Total depravity, total enability, with man, these things (salvation related things) are impossible, but with God All things are possible.



        To say that unregenerate people “cannot respond to God” does not agree with dr. Allen of the Scriptures.

        Dr. Allen’s words below:

        “Allen said this in reference to Ephesians 2:1-10:

        “Part of what is driving the ‘regeneration precedes faith’ issue is a flawed anthropology drawn partly from Ephesians 2. With respect to Ephesians 2:1-10, when Paul speaks of the unregenerate as being ‘dead in sins’ there is no question that ‘dead’ is being used metaphorically. In Scripture, ‘death’ is often used metaphorically to express alienation from God and ‘life’ is used to express union with God via salvation (See Aquinas and O’Brien in Ephesians, [Pillar Commentary]). This death is ‘on account of’ or ‘with respect to’ our sins (notice the nouns are in the dative and there is no preposition in the Greek text). Many Calvinists suggest that this passage either 1) overtly teaches human inability (usually moral inability) in the sense of ‘one cannot because they will not,’ affirming the Edwardsian distinction between natural and moral inability of sinners to respond to the gospel; or 2) implies human inability to respond to the gospel (John Eadie, Ephesians, 121, argued that ‘dead’ implies inability.). There are other biblical figures of speech used to connote depravity which do not indicate or imply total inability. Calvinists assume their definition of spiritual death is correct and then superimpose it on the word ‘dead’ in Ephesians 2. Notice in the broader context the separation motif in Ephesians (2:12, 13, 19, 4:18). Notice also the parallel passage in Colossians 2:12-13, where Paul affirms that even though people are spiritually dead, they can still exercise faith in God.”

        Allen noted that spiritual death means primarily separation from God, not a total inability to respond to God. Calvinists make a significant linguistic mistake by pushing the metaphor “dead” beyond its legitimate metaphorical boundaries. This can be seen when Paul’s use of the metaphor of “dead” as used in Romans 6:1-14 is compared to Eph. 2.

        Also from Allen’s notes:

        “According to the Bible, the unsaved who are spiritually dead have the ability to:
        Act in accordance with conscience (Gen. 3:7)
        Hear God (Gen. 3:10-13)
        Respond to God (Gen. 3:10-13)
        Adam and Eve died spiritually when they ate the fruit.
        But they were still capable of hearing from/responding to God. (Gen. 3:10-13).
        Repent of sins (Luke 15:18-19)
        The prodigal son, in a state of deadness (Luke 15:32),
        still recognized his sin and returned to the father.
        Seek God (John 3)
        Fear God (Acts 10:2)
        Pray to God (Acts 10:2)
        Both Nicodemus and Cornelius were ‘seeking’ God before their regeneration.
        But if they are dead in their sins, how can this be?
        Know the truth about God (Rom. 1:18-20)
        Perceive God’s invisible attributes (Rom. 1:18-20)
        Again if they are spiritually dead in the sense of total inability, how can this be?

        Some Calvinists point out that in Ephesians 2, the word “faith” does not occur until verse 8, but the first work of God, “make us alive,” is mentioned in verse 5. Hence regeneration precedes faith. Not so fast!

        2 Problems:
        1. Ask yourself, “Does the reference to faith in v. 8 follow the activity of v. 5? Does faith follow our seating in heavenly places in v. 6? Does faith follow our future glorification in v.7? Of course not.
        2. Furthermore, one should take note of the perfect tense in v. 5 and its context. Paul is talking about a broader issue than regeneration. He is talking about salvation which includes regeneration and conversion. If regeneration is a part of salvation, and it is, and if faith precedes salvation, and it does, then faith also precedes regeneration. One simply cannot split hairs on this in Ephesians 2:1-10.

        It is interesting what John Calvin himself said about this text: “[Paul] does not mean that faith is the gift of God, but that salvation is given to us by God, or, that we obtain it by the gift of God.”

        The great Greek scholar A.T. Robertson pointed out that in the Greek of Ephesians 2:8-9, grace is God’s part and faith is our part. The antecedent of “this” is not “faith” or “grace,” but is the entire act of being saved by grace conditioned by faith on our part (Word Pictures).

        1. The capacity of faith means one can do otherwise than believe.
        2. No one can exercise saving faith on his own apart from enabling grace.
        3. To accuse non-Calvinists of believing otherwise is a straw man.
        4. The question is whether God sovereignly chose to create humanity with the ability to exercise faith and whether God restores that ability by enabling grace through the Holy Spirit and the Word of God apart from selective regeneration.”


          * Dr. Allen or the Scriptures.

          Robert Vaughn

          Norm, two things:

          (1) I am not attempting to agree or disagree with David Allen, but with the Scriptures. In doing the latter, if I agree or disagree with David Allen, that is fine with me.

          (2) I think you are responding to what you think I said rather than what I said. John 6:44, unless you dispensationally dismiss it, says that “No man can come to me”. “Can” speaks of ability. BUT, it is a qualified “no man can” — it is qualified by an exception, unless God does something. Interestingly, in your number 2 at the bottom you also start with “no man can”. No man can, except or unless… I believe God’s “except or unless” operates on all men, which, I suppose, differentiates my view of “total inability” from that of some others.

          As for me, I do not accuse non-Calvinists of teaching man can exercise saving faith on his own apart from the enabling grace of God. I do, however, believe that for all practical purposes there are some people who operate as if that were true. BTW, I agree with Allen, Robertson and Calvin on Ephesians 2:8, that “this” refers to the whole of salvation and not faith only.

Dennis Lee Dabney


Great article!


    Dennis Lee Dabney

    God has spoken. . .

    Total inability is no excuse once God has spoken to the lost sinner who is dead in trespasses and sins.

    The Revelation of God carries with it the Word of faith which is available for the sinner to believe that God “is”, the naked truth concerning his hopeless condition apart from God’s Amazing Grace.

    The Revelation of God holds the Hell deserving sinner personally responsible for his final response to God’s disclosure regarding His love for the sinner, his fatal illness which is unto death if left alone, his future judgment and the only God provided remedy found in His Son the Lord Jesus Christ.




Great stuff, Brother. Excellent. Thanks for writing this.


doug sayers

Thanks Leighton, if I were still a Calvinist I would be squirming on this one. (The task is even more difficult for those who substitute some kind of irresistible calling, instead of an irresistible regeneration) preceding faith.

Two texts that I would have run to, when I was a Calvinist, are John 3, where Jesus said the new birth precedes seeing and entering the kingdom and 1 John 5:1 where there is a difference in translation in the ESV and other English translations.

Perhaps, you could speak to these sometime.

    Debbie Kaufman

    Nope we are not squirming at all, I am just not going to answer the same tiring debate. The answer is the same one we always give. It hasn’t changed and neither has scripture. So rest assured we are not squirming. Just tired.

      Scott Shaver


      The very fact that you posted an “I’m tired and not answering” response is evidence of at least a little “squirming”…..don’t you think? :)


    ESV: “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God…”
    NASBY: “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God… ”

    In 1 John 5:1, ?????????? is translated as “has been born” and “is born” in many various translation. ESV does no have a lone translation here.

    In any case, whether it is “is” or “has been” is not conclusive on born-again preceding or following faith:
    -On the one hand, if “has been” is correct, it could easily be simply the case that John is here, as other places, emphasizing the marks of a true believer. John telling us that if someone believes Jesus is the Christ, he is a born again Christian…does not in any way negate the fact that Paul places faith as the CONDITION for becoming a Christian.

    -On the other hand, “is” does not mean that the belief is causal in this sentence…as proven by a similar use of ?????????? in 1 John 2:29: “…you know that everyone also who practices righteousness IS [NASB] born of Him.” This obviously does NOT mean that practicing righteousness causes one to be born again. So again, nothing conclusive can be taken from John’s use of ??????????.

      doug sayers

      I agree Andy. This text is one that I have heard J Piper rely heavily upon to prove his order of salvation.

      Can you think of any other texts that would be reasonably used to defend an *irresistible* work of grace preceding repentance and faith?

      Leighton’s list is a lot to overcome!

      I always appreciate your careful application of Scripture and respectful comments.


        Well, simply put, Irresistible grace is inexpicably tied to Unconditional Election, even more-so than the other 3 points of TULIP, because IF God has ordained to save someone, then of course that means he WILL bring it about…”for who can resist his will?” This is why you will sometimes find 3 point calvinists…who may reject absolute total depravity and unlimited atonement, but accept UE, IG, & usually, Perserverace.

        If Unconditional election is proven false, then of course Irristable grace falls with it.

        As to verses that specifically hint at such a thing, these are possibilities:
        -Jonn 6:37 – “All that the father gives to me will come to me.”
        -Eph. 2:5 – ” even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.”
        -Matt. 22:14 – “Many are called, few are chosen.” hints that there may be a difference between the general gospel call, and the kind of call to the Elect.
        -1 Cor. 4:1-6 speaks of satan blinding people tot he truth, but god’s light shining in their hearts, “to GIVE the light of the knowledge of the glory of God”
        -Acts 16:14 – “the Lord opened the heart of Lydia to respond to the things spoken by Paul.”

          Doug Sayers

          Thanks Andy.

          “inexpicably”? You got me with that one! Either Ronnie is rubbing off on you or I learned a new word or auto correct is messing with you. Did you mean inexorably, maybe?

          Anyway, for the benefit of those who may read this (I think you already know it), those would, surely, be texts that Calvinists would run to in defense of their system but I hope they would, at least, admit that they cannot be leaned upon as *explicitly* teaching that an irresistible regeneration / call must precede repentance and faith. The missing word in each text on your list is THE ONE WORD that best exposes their system as flawed..

          These do not say:

          all that the Father irresistibly gives to me will irresistibly come to Me…
          God irresistibly made us alive when we were dead in trespasses and sins..
          many are called but few are irresistibly chosen….
          that Satan blinds irresistibly or that God irresistibly imposes the light into our hearts…
          that the Lord irresistibly opened Lydia’s heart to Paul’s preaching of Christ…

          The committed Calvinist will forever need to implicitly insert the word “irresistible” into these type of texts because it is just not there, in the context of saving faith. It quenches the very spirit of the Gospel. God IS sovereign and there are plenty of things in life that can’t be resisted but a faith that works by love is not one of them.

          He can make the rocks cry out with His praise but that is not as cool as winning over a bunch of self absorbed sinners by the display of His great power, holiness, and love. He does conquer our hearts… but not by force.

          Anyway, thanks for listening, I needed a break from my tax return!

          Andrew Barker

          Andy: “If Unconditional election is proven false, then of course Irristable grace falls with it.”

          Since unconditional election is not a biblical term, the onus is on you to prove it is correct, not the other way round.

Andrew Barker

Doug Sayers: “John 3, where Jesus said the new birth precedes seeing and entering the kingdom”

It’s my understanding that the word ‘seeing’ is being used in John 3 not in the sense of an intellectual understanding so much as experiencing. Hence I think you can correctly paraphrase it as “a man cannot ‘experience’ the kingdom of God unless he is first born again”.

Hope that’s helpful.

Alan Atchison

Excellent. I’ll be sharing this.

Dennis Lee Dabney

A man born blind from birth, who has been in a dark room all of his life, will have no need of a light switch or light for that matter.

He needs revelation concerning his condition so he can first come to himself, or see himself if you please, in order to find out if there is help for his case and a cure for his condition.

Spiritual blindness and natural blindness are both cousins on Adam’s side of the family.

As it is written, no man can come to the Lord Jesus Christ except the Father draws him.

Christ is the end of the Law. Before one comes to Christ he must first hear Moses and the prophets. In other words he must hear what the righteousness of God requires. He must be taught the will of God and the consequences and repercussions associated with the sinner and his sin against Him.

Before the Prodigal could go to his father, he first had to come to himself which took into consideration just how good his father was to all, as well as just how “No Good” he was.

It’s not those who are taught who come to Christ but those who have are taught and have learned.

All who are taught and have learned will come to the Lord Jesus Christ. The same way it is with the man who has just learned he is drowning.

When the lifeguard appears, the drowning man will not resist him but welcome him with great urgency and open arms.


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