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The Promised Spirit Through Faith

So that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
– Galatians 3:14

The Calvinist view is that a person is dead in their sins (Ephesians 2:1-3) and therefore the Spirit must regenerate the dead sinner so that they can hear the gospel, believe, and be saved.  Many appeal to the story of Lazarus in John 11 as an example of regeneration.  Calvinists also appeal to John 3:3 saying that one must be born again to believe and enter the kingdom.

Here in Galatians 3:14 the Calvinist view has a problem.  Paul the Apostle clearly states that we receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.  The Spirit comes through faith.  The Spirit does not come before faith.  This is a problem text for Calvinists.

The Arminian understanding is that all who believe will be saved (John 3:15).  Our view is that the Spirit works through the preaching of the gospel to bring forth faith but He can be resisted and He does not force the person to believe (a point that Calvinists would agree with in regard to force).  John 6:44 is used by both Arminians and Calvinists concerning this work of the Spirit.  The Spirit opens the heart of the sinner to hear the gospel and He enables those who believe to be saved.  The work of regeneration is entirely His work (Titus 3:5-7).  But the belief, while certainly a work of grace, is done by the believer themselves.

The Arminian order of salvation then would be that the Spirit is given to those who believe (Acts 11:17; 15:9).  We are justified before God through faith (Romans 5:1) and at the moment of regeneration, we receive the promised Spirit (Romans 5:5).  There is simply no way around this.

While Charles Spurgeon was no doubt a Calvinist, I do agree with him here:

“If I am to preach the faith in Christ to a man who is regenerated, then the man, being regenerated, is saved already, and it is an unnecessary and ridiculous thing for me to preach Christ to him, and bid him to believe in order to be saved when he is saved already, being regenerate. Am I only to preach faith to those who have it? Absurd, indeed! Is not this waiting till the man is cured and then bringing him the medicine? This is preaching Christ to the righteous and not to sinners.”

Spurgeon battled hyper-Calvinists in his day because Spurgeon rightly preached that all could and should come and be saved while he also believed in unconditional election.  Spurgeon was inconsistent in his theology but for that I am thankful.

One final point.  Calvinists acknowledge that the Spirit convicts people of their sins before salvation (John 16:8-11).  Even if we grant that the Spirit only convicts those who are elect, how can He convict those who are dead?  The Calvinists would have to preach that the Spirit regenerates before conviction instead of before faith.  What is the point of the Spirit’s convicting work toward dead sinners if the dead sinner must be regenerated to believe the gospel?

The Arminian understanding of the convicting work is consistent with our teaching on prevenient (or enabling) grace.  The Spirit convicts the sinner through the gospel (1 Timothy 1:8-11).  The Spirit takes the law of God and He shows the sinner their sin (Romans 3:19-20; 7:7).  The sinner must believe to be saved (Acts 16:30-31) but the Spirit woos the sinner under the guilt of their sin and He regenerates the sinner who believes the gospel (1 Corinthians 1:21; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14).

Adam Clarke on the Order of Salvation

I was reading from the Works of Adam Clarke and found his order of salvation.  Of course, his order is Arminian.  Here is his order:

The order of the great work of salvation is — 1. Conviction of sin: 2. Contrition for sin: 3. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as having been delivered for our offenses, and risen for our justification: 4. Justification or pardon of all past sin, through faith in his blood, accompanied, ordinarily, with the testimony of his Spirit in our hearts, that our sins are forgiven us: 5. Sanctification or holiness, which is progressive, as a growing up into Jesus Christ, our living Head, in all things; and may be instantaneous, as God can, and often does, empty the soul of all sin in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye; and then, having sowed in the seeds of righteousness, they have a free and unmolested vegetation.

6. Perseverance in the state of sanctification; believing, hoping, watching, working, in order to stand in this state of salvation, receiving hourly a deeper impression of the seal of God: 7. Glorification is the result; for he who lives faithful unto death, shall obtain the crown of life. Without conviction of sin, no contrition; without contrition, no faith that justifies; without faith, no justification, no sanctification; without sanctification, no glorification. There is every reason to believe, and genuine experience in divine things confirms it, that in the act of justification, when the Spirit of God, the Spirit of holiness, is given to bear witness with our spirits that we are the children of God; all the outlines of the divine image are drawn upon the soul: and it is the work of the Holy Spirit, in our sanctification, to touch off, and fill up, all those outlines, till every feature of the divine likeness is filled up and perfected.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

07/18/2013 at 9:29 AM

The Order of Salvation in Ephesians 1:13

Ephesians 1:13 says,

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.

Let us work through this text to see the order of salvation.

First, we must hear the gospel (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:47; John 20:21; Acts 1:8; Romans 10:14-17).

Secondly, we must believe in Jesus (John 3:16; 6:29; 20:31; Acts 16:30-31; Romans 10:9-10).

Thirdly, at this point we are sealed with the promised Holy Spirit or born again (John 3:3-7; Romans 3:21-26; 4:24-5:1; 8:9, 15; 1 Corinthians 12:12-13; Galatians 3:13-14).

So the order of salvation here in Ephesians 1:13 would be:

Hear the Gospel ———> Believe the Gospel ————-> Be Sealed With The Spirit

This runs contrary to the Reformed view that regeneration must precede faith for salvation.

The Proclamation of the Gospel and Faith

In John 3:14-17 we read the following:

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

What is clear in this passages of Scripture is that 1) the necessity of the proclamation of the gospel and then 2) that whoever believes has eternal life.  These two points go hand in hand.

For Arminians and Calvinists, the necessity of preaching the gospel is not debated except by hyper-Calvinists who would argue (and rather consistently in my opinion with their view of God’s divine determinism) that God will save His elect no matter what. Even if the Church should sit, God would still save His elect.  Many other Calvinists and all Arminians hold that we must preach the gospel for people to be saved.  The Great Commission of Jesus Christ requires us to be active in preaching the gospel (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:47; John 20:21; Acts 1:8).  Paul the Apostle makes it clear in Romans 10:14-17 that we must preach the gospel for people to hear, know, and have faith in Jesus.

The second point is my main focus here.  Notice that Jesus says in John 3:14 that the preaching of the gospel leads to belief in Him which leads to eternal life.  You’ll notice that Jesus says nothing here about irresistible grace.  He says nothing about regeneration before people can believe.  He says that we preach the cross (v.14) and whoever believes in Him may have eternal life (v.15).  This is the Arminian position: preach Christ and He saves sinners who believe.  Our position is that Jesus died for all people (v.16) and whoever comes to Him for salvation can be saved (v.17).  Notice in verse 17 that Jesus says that the world “might” be saved through Him.  He doesn’t make the salvation of the world automatic or universal salvation but He places a condition upon this salvation mainly faith in Him.

The Calvinist position is that faith comes after regeneration.  This is assumed based on the Calvinist teaching of total depravity and unconditional election.  If God has, from eternity pasty, chosen whom He will save and whom He will condemn then it logically follows that God will draw His elect unto Himself since Christ died to secure their salvation alone.  But the elect will not know that they are the elect unless they persevere unto the end otherwise they are false converts.  The truly elect will continue in the faith (1 John 2:19) unless they were not truly chosen by God and were false converts (1 Corinthians 15:2).  God regenerates His elect (some hold even in the womb) before they exercise faith in Jesus Christ because they are incapable of hearing and responding to the gospel unless God first causes them to be born again before faith.  As R.C. Sproul writes, “We are born again to believe.”

The problem is that such a view is foreign to Scripture.  One must, in this case, take Calvinism and enforce it upon the Bible rather than letting Scripture speak for itself through clear exegesis.  For instance, here in John 3:14-17.  It is clear that we must preach Christ and He saves those who believe (vv.14-15).  If there were ever a time for our Lord to show us that we must be born again to believe, it would be here.  But He doesn’t.  He simply says that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.  If a person must be born again to believe, they would have eternal life (John 6:40).  To be born again is to be in the kingdom (John 3:3-5).  Yet are we to believe that Jesus is telling us here in John 3:15 that the born again will believe in Him and may have eternal life?  It doesn’t follow the text.  It is clear from a cursory reading of this text that salvation comes through hearing the gospel and that whoever believes in Jesus may have eternal life.

This is the Bible position and the Arminian position as well.  We hold that we are justified through faith (Romans 5:1) and not unto faith.  Salvation is by God’s grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) and is the gracious work of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5-7).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

11/23/2012 at 10:26 AM

James White and 1 John 5:1

I must admit that I stole this from my blogging friend, Stephen Garrett and his blog, Baptist Gadfly.  Stephen is a Calvinist but he disagrees with the Reformed Calvinists over regeneration.  Stephen holds to a view that is similar to my own and other Arminians, that a person is born again at the moment of faith and repentance.  Brother Garrett rejects the teaching that regeneration precedes faith as is commonly taught among Reformed Calvinists.  In his post, Stephen challenges the teachings of James White on 1 John 5:1.  I appreciated his thoughts that I wanted to put them here.

James White wrote on 1 John 5:1:

“Generally such a passage would be understood to present the following order of events: 1) Believe that Jesus is the Christ, and 2) you are born of God. Yet, the original readers of this text would not jump to such a conclusion. In reality, the most literal rendering would be, “Every one believing (present tense participle, emphasizing both the ongoing action as well as the individuality of saving faith, “each believing person”) that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God (a perfect passive verb, “has been born by the agency of God”). In John, “the one believing” is very common, and it is no accident the emphasis falls upon the ongoing action of faith. The one believing that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God. If a person is now believing that Jesus is the Christ in a true and saving fashion, they are doing so because, as a completed action in the past, they were born again through the work and agency of God. The verb “to be born” is passive: they were caused to be born by another, that being God. They did not cause their own spiritual birth. And what is the inevitable result of being born of God? belief that Jesus is the Christ. Just as all those who are given by the Father to the Son come to the Son (John 6:37), so too all who are spiritually reborn through the work of God have as the object of their faith the Lord Jesus Christ.

Some Arminian exegetes might object to this interpretation. A means of testing the consistency of the exegesis offered of this passage would be to ask how such a person interprets these words from John:

If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him. (1 John 2:29)

Every consistent protestant would say, “the reason one practices righteousness is because they have already been born of Him. We do not practice righteousness so as to be born, but instead the birth give rise to the practice of righteousness”. And such is quite true. But, this means that in 1 John 5:1 the belief in Jesus as the Christ is the result of being born of Him. The verbal parallel is exact: in 1 John 2:29 “the one practicing righteousness” is a present participle; in 1 John 5:1 “the one believing” is a present participle. In both passages the exact same verb in the exact same form is used. Therefore, sheer consistency leads one to the conclusion that divine birth precedes and is the grounds of both faith in Christ as well as good works.”

In Chapter 82, the second in the series on “Hardshell Proof Texts,” I wrote these words pertaining to I John 5: 1:

“The answer to the seeming incongruity of John putting faith in a present tense participle while putting “is born” in a perfect (past) tense indicative, is the same I gave in the preceding chapter about John 1: 12, 13. John again could have accurately written the verse as follows:

“Whoever has believed (past tense indicative) has been (past tense indicative) born.” But, John’s habit, as White admits, is to describe “believing” as an ongoing action, rather than a one time completed action in the past. This is contrary to how he expresses being “born,” which he always puts in the past tense, as a one time completed action.

Thus, all John is saying is that the one who is believing, who is living the life of faith, is one who has been previously born of God, that is, is one who has previously “received” him, one who has previously and initially believed to salvation.

John is thus saying – “whoever is living the life of faith is one who has been born of God,” and he is not denying that it is equally true to say – “he who has believed and received Christ has been born of God.”

The same is true with the words – “whoever is practicing righteousness has been begotten.” John could have said – “whoever has acted righteously in believing on and in receiving Christ has been born of God.” But, he does not want to view acting righteously, or doing righteousness, as a one time event as he does with the birth.

One who is living the life of faith and the life of righteousness, is one who has been born of God. John is not divorcing, as brother Ross has shown, faith and being active, from the experience of being born of God. The only reason why “believing” and “practicing righteousness” are not in the past tense, like the begetting, is because John wants to focus on the life of the believer, not on the initial act of faith.

So, this is all poor exegesis. It creates the unbiblical character of a “regenerated unbeliever.”

Probably a better verse to use to prove that sometimes “begetting” is prior to faith, is this one.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (I Peter 1: 3 KJV)

Here Peter says that “hope” is the product of the divine begetting. Here “hope” is connected with “faith.” But, this really agrees with John who says that “faith” is the product of the divine begetting. (I John 5: 4)

John and Peter are teaching that when the sinner is begotten, faith, hope, and love for Christ are begotten, they being “things that accompany salvation.” (Hebrews 6: 9) Thus, when a person is begotten, not only is “life” begotten, but also an obedient and ardent faith, and love, and hope, etc.

Besides, the putting of birth before faith, eliminates the gospel as a means. Those, like James White, will try to deny that they have a regeneration apart from the means of the gospel, but they are inconsistent and contradictory. The reason for this is simple. If we are “begotten” through the gospel, that can only mean begotten through faith, or through believing the gospel.”

Now let me review more precisely the remarks of White and judge his “exegesis.”

White said:

“Generally such a passage would be understood to present the following order of events: 1) Believe that Jesus is the Christ, and 2) you are born of God. Yet, the original readers of this text would not jump to such a conclusion. In reality, the most literal rendering would be, “Every one believing (present tense participle, emphasizing both the ongoing action as well as the individuality of saving faith, “each believing person”) that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God (a perfect passive verb, “has been born by the agency of God”).”

Who denies that the one who is a practicing and ongoing believer is one who has been previously born of God? James is not fighting a real opponent, but an imaginary one, a “straw man.”

White ought to find a verse that says – “he who believed was previously born of God,” for I John 5: 1 does not say it. White argues that the divine begetting precedes the initial act of faith and that John is affirming this. But, the initial act of faith is not even mentioned!

White is comparing apples to oranges. The cases are not alike. John says that the Christian life is preceded by a birth. Who denies that? John does not put the initial converting act of believing and turning to Christ, however, after the begetting! He only puts the ongoing faith as what surely follows a real spiritual birth.
When White argues against what he calls the “Arminian” “ordo salutis” he sets up a different structure. He does not use a present tense participle! John uses one! The “is believing” of John does not equal “believe” in the example given of White. What Arminian, except he be a Pelagian, denies that the begetting precedes and causes the “is believing,” or the life of faith, the Christian life? Again, what White should have done was to show how John, or some other bible writer, wrote in this form – “whoever believes (one time act) has been (previously) born of God.” He did not find that structure in I John 5: 1 or 4: 7!

White said:

“In John, “the one believing” is very common, and it is no accident the emphasis falls upon the ongoing action of faith. The one believing that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God.”

“If a person is now believing that Jesus is the Christ in a true and saving fashion, they are doing so because, as a completed action in the past, they were born again through the work and agency of God.”

But, again, no one denies this! Not even an “Arminian.” Certainly the Christian life of faith (the “is believing”) follows spiritual birth! But, show where the initial act of believing in and receiving Christ is put after the birth! That is what you cannot do!

White said:

“The verb “to be born” is passive: they were caused to be born by another, that being God. They did not cause their own spiritual birth. And what is the inevitable result of being born of God? belief that Jesus is the Christ.”

No! John is not saying that! He is saying that the life of faith follows a new birth! Again, White admits that John is not focusing on “believing” as a one time act in the past, to the initial conversion experience, but to the one who is continually believing.

Poor exegesis James!

Written by The Seeking Disciple

07/14/2012 at 1:52 PM

The Receiving of the Spirit by Faith

Dr. Robert Picirilli, in his excellent book Grace, Faith, Free Willbuilds a strong case for justification by faith with an emphasis on regeneration coming after faith.  Calvinists such as Dr. R.C. Sproul contends that because of the nature of total depravity, God must regenerate the person in order for them to be able to believe the gospel.  In the Calvinistic understanding of salvation, regeneration proceeds faith but in the Arminian understanding, faith precedes regeneration.  Which is biblical?

On pages 170-175 Picrilli builds his case for regeneration coming from faith.  One of the points that I enjoyed was his argument that we receive the gift of the Spirit by faith.

In Galatians 3:2 Paul writes, “This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?”  (NASB) and then again in verse 5 he writes, “Does He then, who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?”  (NASB).  In Galatians 3:14, Paul further writes, “So that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.”  

Picirilli’s contention is that the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential to salvation or regeneration (John 3:3-7; Titus 3:5-7).  Paul wrote in Romans 8:9 that if anyone does not have the Spirit of God, they are not of Him.  Picirilli points out that the gift of the Spirit is equaled to salvation in the New Testament (Acts 2:38-39).  It is the promise of Jesus (John 7:37-39).  In this new covenant, the Spirit of God is given to all who believe in Jesus for salvation (Galatians 4:4-6).  The Holy Spirit baptizes us into the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13) and He seals us (Ephesians 1:13).  Specifically notice in Ephesians 1:13 the wording, “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation – having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise” (NASB).  Notice the order here in Ephesians 1:13: hearing (Romans 10:14-17), believing (Romans 1:16-17; 3:22-24), sealing with the Spirit (2 Corinthians 1:22).  Notice that the gift of the Spirit was only given after believing the gospel.

In Acts 11:17 Peter is building his case for the Gentiles to be included into the faith and he states that the Gentiles had received the gift of the Spirit just as the Jews had.  Luke records, “If God therefore gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” (NASB).  The ESV says, “when we believed” but the NASB, I believe, is correct to translate the word as in the past tense or “after believing.”  Either way, the point is clear that the Gentiles and Jews both received the Spirit after believing the gospel (Acts 2:33, 38-39; 10:44-48).

Picirilli is strong here then to assert that we receive the Spirit of God after believing the gospel and not before.  The Calvinist teaching that we receive the Spirit before faith is based not on Scripture but upon a presupposition that because of the nature of depravity, God Himself must cause belief to come by giving of the Spirit before saving faith.

One final point.  In Romans 5:1 Paul states that we are justified through faith in Jesus Christ.  He then states in verse 5 he states that the love of God is poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.  The question is, if the Spirit is given before regeneration unto justification, then why does Paul put the Spirit here in verse 5 and not back in verse 1?  The word “poured” (ESV) also points back to Acts 2:33 where Peter talks about the outpouring of the Spirit given on the day of Pentecost.  Peter says in Acts 2:38 that the Spirit is given after faith (implied), repentance, and baptism.  Colossians 2:12 says that we are raised with Christ through baptism through faith.  Faith here is the key to receiving the Spirit.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

03/23/2012 at 10:00 AM

Spurgeon on Preaching Regeneration To the Elect

I found this quote from Charles Spurgeon in the book, Whosoever Will, to be an interesting quote from a Calvinist often hailed by Calvinists for his Calvinism yet it seems from this quote that Spurgeon did not hold to regeneration preceding faith:

“If I am to preach faith in Christ to a man who is regenerated, then the man being regenerated is saved already, and it is an unnecessary and ridiculous thing for me to preach Christ to him, and bid him to believe in order to be saved when he is saved already, being regenerate. But you tell me that I ought to preach it only to those who repent of their sins. Very well; but since true repentance of sin is the work of the Spirit, any man who has repentance of sin is the work of the Spirit, any man who has repentance is most certainly saved, because evangelical repentance never can exist in an unrenewed soul. Where there is repentance there is faith already, for they never can be separated. So, then, I am only to preach faith to those who have it. Absurd, indeed! Is not this waiting till the man is cured and then bringing him the medicine? This is preaching Christ to righteous and not to sinners.”

Great quote! Jesus said that He did not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners (Luke 5:31-32). Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). The Bible says that those who repent are the redeemed of the Lord (Acts 2:38, 41). Whoever hears the gospel and repents becomes a child of God through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 10:9-17; Ephesians 2:8-9; 1 John 2:27-28). The Bible teaches that Jesus died for all and all can be saved provided they meet the conditions that God Himself has set forward (Mark 16:15-16; John 3:16-17; 1 Timothy 4:10).
This quote from Spurgeon is one that an Arminian could hear and give a hearty, “Amen!”

Written by The Seeking Disciple

04/11/2010 at 9:29 AM

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