submitted by Dr. Rick Patrick, pastor
FBC Sylacauga, Ala.
Pastor Rick Patrick with five youthful candidates for baptism.
Last Sunday God blessed the First Baptist Church of Sylacauga in a beautiful way. We began the morning worship service baptizing five middle school students. During the invitation, two more youths walked the aisle. After the service, a child came up indicating he had trusted in Jesus as his Lord and Savior. Then on Sunday night, we had the privilege of baptizing by immersion a man who had formerly been a Presbyterian.
by Ron F. Hale
Viewpoints on the doctrine of regeneration collide and clash in the evangelical blogosphere. Is the sinner regenerated prior to faith or subsequently? It boils down to the question of “when?”
Reformed theologian Dr. R.C. Sproul shares his personal experience: “One of the most dramatic moments in my life for the shaping of my theology took place in a seminary classroom. One of my professors went to the blackboard and wrote these words in bold letters: ‘Regeneration Precedes Faith.’”
With polarizing gravitas, Sproul declares, “If we believe that faith precedes regeneration, then we set our thinking and therefore ourselves in direct opposition not only to giants of Christian history but also to the teaching of Paul and of our Lord Himself.”
In stark contrast, my dramatic moment came a decade ago when realizing that many New Calvinists in the SBC teach that a sinner is regenerated or “born-again” in order to believe. To say it another way, the sinner believes because he or she has been born-again (regenerated).
All of my SBC teaching and training had taught me that the regenerating work of God happens “as” or “after” a sinner (under conviction by the Holy Spirit) responds to the Gospel through repentance and faith. In other words, the sinner believes in Jesus and eternal life is imparted by the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. The person becomes a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17), and partakes of a new nature (2 Pet. 1:4).
Consequently, if you believe a sinner is dead as a corpse (totally depraved and unable to freely respond to God) and faith is a gift given to particular ones (the elect), and only those individuals sovereignly and unconditionally elected before the foundation of the world will be irresistibly drawn to Christ – then it is highly likely you believe that regeneration precedes faith.
Dr. Kendell Easley wrote a book entitled 52 Words Every Christian Should Know (2006). Easley sides with Sproul on the matter of regeneration preceding faith. He defines the word in this manner:
Regeneration or being born again refers to God’s act of making a person alive spiritually. This is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit by which sinners are given new spiritual life enabling them to relate to God in faith, love, obedience, and delight.”
Easley makes his position clearer as he says, “Is faith the basis upon which the Spirit regenerates or is faith the fruit of regeneration? The biblical language, emphasizing regeneration as moving from death to life as sovereignly worked by the Spirit, appears to favor the later view and understands faith itself as a gift from God. John Frame would agree with Sproul and Easley as he states, “The Spirit regenerates us, producing faith.”
Conversely, Dr. Kenneth Keathley, senior associate dean at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, makes the case for faith preceding the new birth (regeneration) and lays out three strong biblical arguments, they are:
First, the many appeals in the Bible calling sinners to respond to the gospel imply that conversion results in regeneration. The Scriptures are presented as the seed the Spirit of God uses to bring about new life (I Pet. 1:23; James 1:18,21; I John 3:9). That the Word of God is the Spirit’s instrumental means indicates that faith leads to regeneration.
Second, the Bible presents conversion as the condition to salvation, not the result of being saved (John 1:12; 3:16,18,24,36,40; Acts 13:39; Rom. 3:22, 26; 4:3,5; 5:1). The apostles repeatedly promise their hearers that, if they will repent and believe, then they will be saved (Acts 2:38; 16:30-31). The Apostle John put special emphasis on the necessity of the new birth, but he presented faith as the condition to becoming a child of God (John 1:12-13) and to receiving eternal life (“By believing you may have life in his name,” John 20:31).
Third, Keathley uses a point made by Dr. Norman Geisler … that if regeneration is prior to conversion, then salvation is no longer by faith. If one is already regenerated before he believes, then faith is not a condition to salvation but the evidence of having been saved. However, sola fide is the testimony of Scripture (Rom. 10:9-10).
Geisler’s point is well taken – a “born again unbeliever” is difficult to imagine even if the time span is infinitesimally small. Charles C. Ryrie has asked, “… for it may as well be argued that if a sinner has new life through regeneration, why does he need to believe?”
Dr. Gary L. Nebeker questions the view of faith being given as a gift to some: “The concept of infused faith for salvation bears a marked resemblance to the sacramentalism of the Roman Catholic Church. That is to say, faith becomes a transmitted and efficacious element, which God gives to men for salvation. Again, it must be emphasized that faith is not a substance, but a human response prompted by the Holy Spirit.”
Could it be that Reformed divines fought so hard in guarding Church orthodoxy against pelagianism (and semi-pelagianism) and for salvation being purely and solely of God that they missed the living reality that God looks for a free and loving response of faith as the Holy Spirit draws the sinner through the Gospel?
In Luke 7, the “sinful” woman drenches the feet of Jesus with her tears, dries them with her hair, and anoints His feet with expensive perfume. Meanwhile, the Pharisee is nauseated by this nonsense. Finally, Jesus says to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” How? Why? When? What for?
Jesus said to her, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”
The Bible is null and void of teaching that saving faith is a special gift of God to a privileged and particular few. The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation (to whosoever), and as the sinner hears the Word of Truth, he or she is born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God (I Pet. 1:23).
©Ron F. Hale, January 5, 2014
 Kendell Easley, 52 Words Every Christian Should Know, (Nashville, Holman Reference, 2006), 86.
 Ibid. 87.
 Kenneth Keathley, “The Work of God: Salvation,” in A Theology for the Church, ed. Daniel L. Akin (Nashville: B & H Academic, 2007), 743. Also, Dr. Keathley believes that conversion is made up of two distinguishable yet inseparable parts: repentance and faith, 728.
 Ibid. 743.
 Basic Theology, (Wheaton: Victor, 1986; reprint ,Chicago: Moody, 1999), 326.
The following is an excerpt from a sermon on John 3.16 preached by W.A. Criswell in 1987.
He recalls an incident in the life of the great evangelist, D.L. Moody.
“Have you ever read the story of Harry Moorehouse? One of the most unusual providences I’ve ever heard of; when Dwight L. Moody finished his revival meeting in this last century in Birmingham, England, to bid him goodbye among the throngs was a young man named Harry Moorehouse. And he said to Moody, “I hope to come to America. And when I do, I’ll preach for you.” Well, you don’t preach for somebody on your own invitation; you have to be invited. He wasn’t invited. “I’ll preach for you.” Moody was gracious and said, “Well, when you come to America, you be sure and speak to us. Let us know. We’ll welcome you.”
About six months later, D.L. Moody in Chicago received a telephone call from New York City. It was that young man, Harry Moorehouse. And he said to Moody, “I’m here in New York and I’ll be in Chicago Wednesday, and I’ll preach for you Wednesday night.”
When Wednesday came, Moody had to leave on another assignment, and he told his deacons, “This young fellow in New York, from Birmingham, England, says he’s going to preach for us tonight, Wednesday. Now you ask him to say a few words in kindness and courtesy.” So Moody left.
That night, Wednesday night, the deacons invited the young fellow to say a few words. He stood up there and he began pouring out his soul and heart on John 3:16. And when he gave an invitation, there were about ten people saved.
Well, the deacons were overwhelmed! So they said, “You preach for us tomorrow night, Thursday night. We’ll have services.”
The young fellow stood up there Thursday night, preached on the same text, John 3:16. And there were about fifteen people saved. They were overwhelmed! And they announced, “On Friday night, we’ll have services again. And this young man will preach.” And only Friday night, they had about twenty people saved. They announced services for Saturday night.
And on Saturday, Mr. Moody came back to Chicago. And his wife said to him, she said, “Husband, we’re in the midst of a great revival. And this young fellow, Harry Moorehouse, will be preaching again tonight.” And she said to Moody, “The people are being converted, and you’re going to be converted!” Moody was astonished at what his wife said. He replied, “I’ve been preaching over twenty years and you say I’m going to be converted!”
“Yes,” she says, “and you will see. You’ll understand.” When the service began on Saturday night, Moody sat on the front row, highly critical. The young fellow began preaching again on John 3:16. And there were about twenty-five or thirty people saved on Saturday night.
That continued every night for six solid weeks. And when it was over, Moody said, “I got converted, changed.” He said, “Heretofore, I have been preaching on the Sinai side of Calvary—been preaching hellfire and damnation and thunder and lightning! But,” he said, “after those six weeks, I began preaching the other side of Calvary: grace, and forgiveness, and love, and salvation in the outpouring of the loving heart and saving blood of our Lord.”
Copyright © 2013 The W. A. Criswell Foundation.
All Rights Reserved.
Posted with permission.
Visit www.wacriswell.org to view/read hundreds of sermons by Dr. Criswell.