Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Regeneration Must Precede Faith

Continuing my last post, let me assert that no man can provide faith for his regeneration to salvation. Regeneration and salvation must be a wholly divine work. I think this is very clearly seen by observing mankind's fallen state.

Ephesians 2:1 tells us that we Christians were all once dead in our trespasses and sins. Dead. That is a word of finality - it is unmistakable. You can't, in reality, be "half dead" or "somewhat dead" or "kind of dead" ... either you are dead in all fullness or you are not. If you are not dead, you are therefore alive, even if only the faintest spark of life exists. However, Scripture does not teach that the faintest spark of spiritual life exists in fallen man. As uncomfortable as it may seem, every Christian was once dead in our sins and every non-Christian still is. Consider these words from a teaching by Charles Spurgeon:

"Holy Scripture tells us that man by nature is dead in trespasses and sins. It does not say that he is sick, that he is faint, that he has grown callous, and hardened, and seared, but it says he is absolutely dead. Whatever that term "death" means in connection with the body, that it means in connection with man's soul, viewing it in its relation to spiritual things. When the body is dead it is powerless; it is unable to do any thing for itself; and when the soul of man is dead, in a spiritual sense, it must be, if there is any meaning in the figure, utterly and entirely powerless, and unable to do any thing of itself or for itself. When ye shall see dead men raising themselves from their graves, when ye shall see them unwinding their own sheets, opening their own coffin-lids, and walking down our streets alive and animate, as the result of their own power, then perhaps ye may believe that souls that are dead in sin may turn to God, may recreate their own natures, and may make themselves heirs of heaven, though before they were heirs of wrath. But mark, not till then. The drift of the gospel is, that man is dead in sin, and that divine life is God's gift..."

When someone is dead in their sin, their existance is a closed system. A closed system cannot become other than it is without being influenced by something outside of that particular system. By that I mean that something that was not already in that system will never manifest itself within that system by that system's own devices. That would be like me asking you to sponateously produce knowledge of everything you don't know. Death is a closed system. Unless acted upon by an outside force, death does not sponteneously produce anything (except perhaps more death).

A spiritually dead person cannot produce the smallest inkling of faith that would lead him to somehow cooperate in the regeneration process. He can offer nothing for his salvation - he must be acted upon by an "outside force."

"Regeneration is not a joint venture. We do not cooperate in it because we will not cooperate in spiritual matters while we are still dead in our sins. Our hearts are totally disinclined and indisposed to the things of God. We love darkness and will not have God in our thinking. The desires of our hearts are enslaved to sin. We will never choose Christ until or unless we are liberated from that slavery. In short, we are morally unable to exercise faith until and unless we are first regenerated.
This is why the axiom of Reformed theology is that regeneration precedes faith. Rebirth is a necessary pre-condition for faith. Faith is not possible for spiritually dead creatures. Therefore, we contend that apart from spiritual rebirth there can be no faith.
Of course, once the divine initiative of regeneration has been wrought by the sovereign monergistic work of God, the rest of the Christian life is synergistic. But the transformation of the person from death to life, darkness to light, bondage to liberation is done by God alone, effectually and irresistibly." - R.C. Sproul, Dead Men Walking

"For it is by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God..."

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