Why Do Some Repent and Are Saved While Others Do Not?

A question is often asked, “Why is one person saved and another not. Two people can hear the same gospel message and one repents and the other does not.” The question is then asked, “Why does one repent and the other not given the same set of circumstances?” The obvious inference in this question is what Calvinists consider to be the only plausible answer, “God effectually calls the one who repents and He does not extend that call to the one who does not.” This appears to be the only logical answer for the Calvinist. To try to argue differently, the most common retort is that one must elevate the individual’s choice above God’s choice and that is problematic for the Calvinist.

Understanding the implications of the argument, there is an interesting twist that really tosses the ball back into the Calvinist court in this argument. The same question can be asked about why one person who has been regenerated matures as a Christian and another does not. Why does one Christian stay on a milk diet while another matures to a meat diet. The same question can then be asked, “Why does one individual grow spiritually and walk with God while another does not?” Is God the One who decides who matures in his faith while another does not? It would seem that the only answer for the consistent Calvinist would be, “yes because God is sovereign He and He alone determines who does and does not grow spiritually just as He is the One who determines who is and who is not regenerated.” How can God be sovereign and deterministic in regeneration and not in sanctification?

If one argues that man’s choices are the determining factors in sanctification then why is it completely out of question that man is not equally responsible for his own choices concerning his conversion and regeneration?

I do not believe it is theologically conceivable to posit one position where regeneration is concerned and not extend the same theological postulate to sanctification as one ascribes to regeneration and vice versa. If God is solely responsible for one’s regeneration then why would He not be solely responsible for that person’s sanctification? It does not make sense that God would effectually call the lost to new life and then leave the quality of that life solely up to the new born spiritual babe.

Now on the other hand, if one is going to contend that sanctification is indeed synergistic and God’s response to us is in fact contingent on our choice in obedience to His Word then it would also seem theologically consistent to argue that God’s choice concerning my conversion would be also contingent on my choice with respect to my obedience to the revelation of His promises to me in His precious Word. It would certainly seem plausible from this perspective to suggest that God’s choice concerning my eternal destiny is in fact contingent on what I do with Jesus. It does not seem logically plausible to claim that regeneration is monergistic and sanctification is synergistic.

Sanctification is just as important a part of the salvific process as is justification. If one is synergistic then it would certainly seem feasible that other would be synergist and if one is monergistic then both justification and sanctification would be monergistic. It does not seem tenable to argue that regeneration is monergistic and sanctification is synergistic but that does appear to be the way Calvinism attempts to shape their theological position.

I do not see a Scriptural justification for the two differing views.

If conversion is synergistic, why does one person repent and believe and another not? The Calvinist position reduces this event to ONE moment in time. At the appointed time, God regenerates or “re-births” the elect individual. It is a predetermined or predestined choice made by God before the foundation of the world. This choice is made with no regard to anything the individual may or may not have done, including going to church, being raised up in a Christian home, or spending time reading the Word of God. These human efforts have no bearing on God’s choice in regeneration. The elect WILL be saved and that is the sole determining factor in who is saved.

I believe the Bible presents a very different picture of the salvific process. The answer to this question, “Why does one person repent and believe and another does not?” is rooted in the choices the two individuals have made in their lives and the reconciliatory work of the Holy Spirit in those individual’s hearts up to this point. Two people may hear the same gospel message on a given Sunday and one repent and another not; understand something, both made choices! One chose to repent and the other chose to reject. These choices at this one moment in time could well be more the result of where these two individuals have been and what they have been through to this point. Now this does not discount the immediate impact of the gospel message and the convicting work of the Holy Spirit, but even the response to those influences can be the product of events that have taken place and decisions that have been made in the past that lead up to the choice to repent or reject the gospel message in any given moment.

I believe the Holy Spirit can work in a person’s heart long before he may hear a gospel message that may well change his eternal destiny. I believe the Holy Spirit most certainly goes before us on personal evangelistic opportunities. I believe the sum total of one’s decisions in the past help shape our decisions in the present and in the future. I believe it is very possible for me to harden their own hearts to the gospel message as they choose to reject the claims of Christ on their lives. When an individual says “no” to the gospel message and the convicting work of the Holy Spirit, I believe it can get easier and easier to do so down the road. I believe sin has a very deceptive side to it. Since our sin does not kill us on the spot, I believe men develop a false sense of security and think, it’s not a big deal. These folks conclude they do not need Jesus when in reality He is the greatest need they have in their lives. I believe this is the key to the story of the rich you ng ruler who came to Jesus in Mark 10.

There is another factor I believe comes into play in answering the question, why does one repent and another reject the gospel invitation and I believe it involves a procrastinating mindset. I believe there are many who come under the convicting Word and work of the Holy Spirit and know they need to respond and repent but decide to wait. Procrastination is most certainly one of the major vices the devil uses to accomplish his goals.

In conclusion, I believe the overarching thrust of Scripture point to a synergistic approach to conversion as opposed to the monergistic approach touted by Calvinism. I believe a person’s response to the gospel is more times than not, a product of the choices that individual has made and the influences that have permeated that individual’s life. Even the first time hearer of the gospel who repents may do so because the Holy Spirit has been at work in the individual’s heart preparing him or her for this monumental moment in their life. One final comment. Revival is sweeping the world today because the gospel is being taken into places that have not been open to it in the past. Muslims and Hindu are coming to Christ in record numbers today because the gospel is more readily available today than it has been in past years and decades.

Is this a response to God’s efficacious call or a result and response to a more prolific proclamation of the gospel, which the Bible says is the power of God unto salvation to them who believe? I believe it the latter and I pray for a continued out pouring of the Holy Spirit into the dark places of the world where the gospel is penetrating the hearts and lives of people groups all over the world.

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106 Responses to Why Do Some Repent and Are Saved While Others Do Not?

  1. Les Prouty says:

    Bob,

    Well written. I disagree, but still well written. Couple of things.

    Reformed theology can make a distinction between regeneration and sanctification because scripture does. We’ve been over regeneration many times so I won’t repeat that. We see it monergistically. Sanctification. Why doesn’t God just zap us and make us sanctified? Is that what you’re asking? Or as you ask, “The same question can be asked about why one person who has been regenerated matures as a Christian and another does not. Why does one Christian stay on a milk diet while another matures to a meat diet.”

    Reformed theology recognizes what actually happens in sanctification. i.e. God is indeed at work in a believer’s life. But the scriptures are full of commands to believers to “do.” Granted all we do we can take no credit for. But we are still to “work out our salvation” even as we acknowledge that “it is God working” in us.

    In regeneration, man is still under God’s commands. But due to the fall, man is unable and also unwilling to keep God’s commands. We are dead. Yet still responsible. God calls al men everywhere to repent. And man is responsible for not repenting.

    Now it is true that each Christian matures in different ways and to different degrees. Nevertheless as the LBC 1689 says,

    “This sanctification is throughout the whole man, yet imperfect in this life; there abideth still some remnants of corruption in every part, whence ariseth a continual and irreconcilable war; the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.”
    and…

    “In which war, although the remaining corruption for a time may much prevail, yet through the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ, the regenerate part doth overcome; and so the saints grow in grace, perfecting holiness in the fear of God, pressing after an heavenly life, in evangelical obedience to all the commands which Christ as Head and King, in His Word hath prescribed them.”

    One other thing. You need to keep the terms we use in their proper distinction. You said,

    ‘In conclusion, I believe the overarching thrust of Scripture point to a synergistic approach to conversion as opposed to the monergistic approach touted by Calvinism.”

    Properly the juxtaposition should be NOT between “conversion” and a “monergistic” approach to conversion. Conversion in theological terms and usage refers to repentance and faith. Reformed theology does not consider conversion monergistic. i.e. Reformed theology absolutely teaches that man must actually himself repent and he much actually believe. Reformed theology does not teach that ‘conversion” is done to man by God.

    Les

    • Les Prouty says:

      Bob,

      Good question this…”The reason that these are important is this: (at least in my mind) if it is true that the Holy Spirit can and does work on people’s heart for some time until they repent and believe and on others that never do so, then the whole monergistic argument goes out the window because however one defines or describes this concept, it CANNOT be a gradual process but rather immediate and instantaneous.”

      There is actually scriptural evidence of some who were regenerated a long time before their conversion. John the Baptizer and Jeremiah comer to mind.

      So there is no problem in a view where there can be some lapse of time between regeneration and conversion. God the Holy Spirit regenerates the person who perhaps immediately is well aware of their sinfulness and need of Jesus. Others can see a lapse of time as they more and more come to understand the things of God (since previous to their regeneration they could not–their minds and hearts being darkened). It could be hours, days, years (see John the Baptizer and Jeremiah).

      Les

      • sbcissues says:

        Les,

        Consider your statement… God the Holy Spirit regenerates the person who perhaps immediately is well aware of their sinfulness and need of Jesus. Others can see a lapse of time as they more and more come to understand the things of God (since previous to their regeneration they could not–their minds and hearts being darkened). It could be hours, days, years (see John the Baptizer and Jeremiah).

        Here is my question. Prior to regeneration calvinism maintains a person CANNOT repent and following regeneration a person CANNOT NOT repent.

        How is it that following regeneration, it can take hours or weeks or longer to repent if regeneration gives new life and that new state produces repentance… if it takes some time afterwards then one of 2 things would seem to be true:

        1 regeneration is not what it is claimed to be unless you want to try to argue that regeneration sets the stage for the effectual call… but even that position is way too vague and most I read will argue that the two are virtually simultaneous.

        2 if you are correct in your statement that John the Baptist and Jeremiah were regenerated and then converted much later… perhaps what you are calling regeneration did NOT take place as you suggest and the concept is not as Scripturally supported as you suggest.

      • Les Prouty says:

        Bob, Rhutchin gave a great reply to your question here.

        I’ve said it before but it bears repeating. The sole reason you and all non Calvinists will not and cannot agree with us on regeneration is due to your view of man’s condition in his fallen state. In our view there is nothing in man which allows him to have faith and repent while in his fallen condition. He must have a new heart. In your view man has an innate capability to repent and have faith while in his fallen state.

      • sbcissues says:

        In your view man has an innate capability to repent and have faith while in his fallen state.

        In MY view men have the God given responsibility to choose to accept or reject God’s initiative in revelation and reconciliation.

        THAT my brother is MY view not the one you espoused.

      • Les Prouty says:

        I agree that man has the God given responsibility to choose to accept or reject God’s initiative. Men see the heavens and are responsible. Men hear preaching calling them to repent and believe and are responsible.

        So Bob, you **deny** that man has the **capability** in his natural state to repent and believe?

      • sbcissues says:

        I believe he has the ability and responsibility to respond to God’s initiative in revelation and reconciliation.

      • Les Prouty says:

        Bob, the ability and responsibility in his natural condition? You left that phrase out. Please clarify.

      • sbcissues says:

        Yes in his NATURAL CONDITION which by the way was created in the image of God unless you can show me where the Bible says that is no longer the case.

        Now before you get to far ahead of yourself… the same condition you guys use to say that God MUST change a person’s sinful nature because man cannot do it… as in the example of the leopard changing his spots…

        the converse of that must be true of man’s created nature… unless God changed it and I do not know of ANY passage that says He did then man cannot change it either.

        You will say will his sin changed his created nature… I do not see how man can undo what God has done… and I believe the sinful nature is a secondary acquired nature to the created nature that all is related to his being put out of the garden.

        Now… my real point is this; unless you can show me where God changed man’s created nature then I am going to argue that it has not been changed and that original created nature is still in tact…

        Make sense?

      • Les Prouty says:

        Bob, I affirm that man was and is created in the image of God.

        God created man in an innocent state with the capacity to sin. Only one being has no capacity to never sin–God. Bob just because you can’t see that man undid what God created doesn’t make it so. Man chose to disobey God and plunged all mankind into sin. It’s right there in Genesis. Man’s original created nature in innocence has most definitely changed. LBC:

        “After God had made all other creatures, he created man, male and female, with reasonable and immortal souls, rendering them fit unto that life to God for which they were created; being made after the image of God, in knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness; having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfil it, and yet under a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject to change.”

        This is what we affirm. Your BF&M agrees:

        “In the beginning man was innocent of sin and was endowed by his Creator with freedom of choice. By his free choice man sinned against God and brought sin into the human race. Through the temptation of Satan man transgressed the command of God, and fell from his original innocence whereby his posterity inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin.”

        You however, seem to be saying the original nature of man “has not been changed and that original created nature is still in tact…”

        That is a serious error I think. You are still left arguing that man in his present fallen sinful condition is capable of repentance and faith in his very being. Right?

      • sbcissues says:

        Les,

        OK… even though you are beginning to try my patience… because you and I have dialogued more than anyone else… I will respond ONE MORE TIME to the following:

        the original nature of man “has not been changed and that original created nature is still in tact.” I just wrote and asked YOU to produce ONE verse that says God changed man’s created nature. You guys argue that man cannot change his sinful nature… so if he cannot change his sinful nature then how can he change his created nature? He can’t so unless God changed it then it must still be in tact.

        Now since Adam sinned, he did indeed did take on a new nature but that nature can be in addition to the created nature; we have a created nature being created in the image of God and an acquired secondary sinful nature… the whole idea of total depravity and inability is conjecture…. it is widely accepted but that does not mean it is definitive and I argue it is not Biblically based; it may be Biblically supported but not based.

        You asked, You are still left arguing that man in his present fallen sinful condition is capable of repentance and faith in his very being. Right?

        My position is that man has the ability and responsibility to respond in repentance or rejection to God’s initiative of revelation and reconciliation, both of which demand a response. I do believe man has the ability to respond to God’s initiatives.

      • Les Prouty says:

        Bob,

        I don’t have but a minute. Back later. But as I said, man was created in innocence. He had the capacity to sin. Agree?

        He sinned and he was cursed with a sin nature. God talked about it at the time of Noah. “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”

        Gotta run for now. But answer this please. You said, “I do believe man has the ability to respond to God’s initiatives.”

        What role in these initiatives you mention does the Holy Spirit have? What does He do to man in these initiatives?

      • sbcissues says:

        Les,

        The Holy Spirit works in and on the human heart to “write the Word of God in his heart.” The Word is the revelatory initiative of God to let men know Who He is and what it is that He wants to do for us , through us and for us.

        Probably the difference in our positions is that I believe the gospel is the power of God to those WHO believe; the Holy Spirit DRAWS men… we both are probably in close agreement here.

        We simply disagree on how and why man responds in repentance.

        Now the thrust of this post is really a different twist. We have discussed this nuance until we are both black and blue.

        What I want to focus on is the difference in effectual call and regeneration and the monergistic and synergistic aspects in the calvinist salvific system.

      • Les Prouty says:

        Bob, why don’t we discuss something totally new. How about you try and prove that baptism in the NT was always and only by immersion or dipping. Don’t think you can but it would be fun to try. Does the word baptism (in Greek) always mean to dip or immerse? Come on.

    • rhutchin says:

      As Les points out, regeneration is monergistic – it is accomplished by God alone. Regeneration involves replacing the heart of stone with a heart of flesh. It involves the removal of the blindness of 2 Corinthians 3. Can a person help the surgeon perform heart surgery on his own heart? Of course not. Neither can we help God.

      Following regeneration, a synergistic process begins whereby God uses human agents – pastors, evangelists, teachers – to teach regenerated people and help them to renew their minds. I think there are legitimate reasons why this process may proceed slowly or quickly in different people. This relates to the quality of the pastor/teacher, the influence of parents, cultural influences – the decision for a Muslim would be much more difficult than a person raised in a Christian home, peers – a person surrounded by Christians might speed along where someone still in the ‘hood might progress slowly. I think one need only listen to the testimonies of people to see this – and I think you probably know such testimonies.

      The key issue is why one person comes to Christ and another does not. God must determine this for it is He who regenerates the person by giving them a heart of flesh and removing blindness.

      You might ask whether a person regenerated by God could fall by the wayside. To this Paul wrote, “[I am] confident of this very thing, that he which began a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:”

      • sbcissues says:

        In all fairness with all due respect I do not believe Paul had regeneration prior to believing faith in mind when he made the statement you quoted.

  2. sbcissues says:

    Les

    Thanks for the compliment. You said, “Reformed theology can make a distinction between regeneration and sanctification because scripture does.”

    I am arguing that this is NOT the case. I also do understand the differing issues of conversion and regeneration where monergism is concerned in the calvinist system.

    What does not sit well with me as I try to think through all this is the fact that sanctification IS synergistic but regeneration CANNOT be. I understand the issues concerning total depravity and inability, which as you know I do not believe can be Scripturally justified. In looking at this issue of monergism as presented in calvinism, which by the way is the ONLY place one sees this position, I just find it difficult to fathom.

    I understand your statement, “But due to the fall, man is unable and also unwilling to keep God’s commands. We are dead.” I do not believe this is Biblically sustainable and this is the foundation that makes monergism necessary.

    What about the comments that follow the section on monergism and synergism that speak to the question of shy some repent and others do not?

    The reason that these are important is this: (at least in my mind) if it is true that the Holy Spirit can and does work on people’s heart for some time until they repent and believe and on others that never do so, then the whole monergistic argument goes out the window because however one defines or describes this concept, it CANNOT be a gradual process but rather immediate and instantaneous. There can be no such thing as gradual new birth or a gradual new nature or new heart.

    I just cannot begin to embrace even the slightest part of the whole concept… it simply baffles my mind to no end.

  3. sbcissues says:

    This comment is OPEN TO ALL… earlier Les made the following statement:

    So there is no problem in a view where there can be some lapse of time between regeneration and conversion. God the Holy Spirit regenerates the person who perhaps immediately is well aware of their sinfulness and need of Jesus. Others can see a lapse of time as they more and more come to understand the things of God (since previous to their regeneration they could not–their minds and hearts being darkened). It could be hours, days, years (see John the Baptizer and Jeremiah).

    If Les’ statement correctly states the monergistic aspect that calvinism espouses, how is it possible for one to be regenerated in April and then remain lost until lest say June? Regeneration is monergistic I get that but are you now saying effectual call is somehow synergistic?

    rhutchin you wrote: Following regeneration, a synergistic process begins whereby God uses human agents – pastors, evangelists, teachers – to teach regenerated people and help them to renew their minds. I think there are legitimate reasons why this process may proceed slowly or quickly in different people. This relates to the quality of the pastor/teacher, the influence of parents, cultural influences –

    Now are you agreeing with Les that regeneration takes place and THEN conversion becomes synergistic… requiring a salvific understanding of the gospel that causes the elect to repent? Or are you specifically addressing sanctification in this statement?

    WOW my head is now spinning for sure!

    SOMEBODY PLEASE BRING SOME SENSE TO THIS COMMENT FEED!

    • Les Prouty says:

      Bob,

      “but are you now saying effectual call is somehow synergistic?”

      No we are not saying. The effectual call is made efficacious because of man’s new heart resulting from regeneration. Conversion is synergistic in that man truly does participate exercising his gifts of repentance and faith (conversion).

      • sbcissues says:

        OK so are you NOW saying that repentance is NOT the immediate response to the effectual call?

      • Les Prouty says:

        Bob, I have been clear. Re-read what I have said above. I’ll repeat it here just to make sure I’m being read:

        “So there is no problem in a view where there can be some lapse of time between regeneration and conversion. God the Holy Spirit regenerates the person who perhaps immediately is well aware of their sinfulness and need of Jesus. Others can see a lapse of time as they more and more come to understand the things of God (since previous to their regeneration they could not–their minds and hearts being darkened). It could be hours, days, years (see John the Baptizer and Jeremiah).”

      • sbcissues says:

        Les,

        You did NOT answer my question. Are you saying “repentance is not necessarily man’s immediate response to the effectual call?” Are you saying that an individual’s response to God’s effectual call can come at a later time than when it was given?

        Are you sure you want to go there?

      • Les Prouty says:

        Bob, I am saying that conversion may or may not be immediate and concurrent to the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. And we must have that regenerating work by God. John Murray writes well:

        “It has often been said that we are passive in regeneration. This is a true and proper statement. For it is simply the precipitate of what our Lord has taught here [John 3]. We may not like it. We may recoil against it. It may not fit into our way of thinking and it may not accord with the time-worn expressions which are the coin of our evangelism. But if we recoil against what shall we answer when we appear before him whose truth we rejected and with whose gospel we tampered? But blessed be God that the gospel of Christ is one of sovereign, efficacious, irresistible regeneration. If it were not the case that in regeneration we are passive, the subjects of an action of which God alone is the agent, there would be no gospel at all. For unless God by sovereign, operative grace had turned our enmity to love and our disbelief to faith we would never yield the response of faith and love.”

        Spoul,

        “Here we reach the ultimate point of separation between semi-Pelagianism and Augustinianism, between Arminianism and Calvinism, between Rome and the Reformation. Here we discover whether we are utterly dependent on grace for our salvation or if, while still in the flesh, still in bondage to sin, and still dead in sin, we can cooperate with grace in such a way that affects our eternal destiny. In the Reformation view, the work of regeneration is performed by God and by him alone. The sinner is completely passive in receiving this action. Regeneration is an example of God’s operative grace. Any cooperation we display toward God occurs only after the work of regeneration has been completed. Of course we respond to this work. We respond in a manner similar to that of Lazarus when, after being loosed, he stepped out of the tomb.”

        Notice esp. “Any cooperation we display toward God occurs only after the work of regeneration has been completed.” That is what I’m saying. New heart leads to a new understanding leads to conversion. How long? I don’t know.

        All of this is wrapped up together brother. The call is made effectual, however long until he responds, because regeneration took place. As rhutchin alluded to, there may very well be a difference in how long till one professes faith between a Muslim and a lifelong Baptist church go-fer. And remember this, what we are talking about are things unseen. We really only get to see the results of all this salvation activity. A man may go tell a pastor that he has repented and believed and may not be able to pinpoint an exact time when his awareness of his sin and his faith actually happened.

        Summary by one of the best:

        Robert Reymond said well in his systematic theology ( I highly recommend it):

        ““Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ freely offered to us in the gospel” (Shorter Catechism, Question 31). By the regenerating work of his Spirit, God the Father irresistibly summons, normally in conjunction with the church’s proclamation of the gospel, the elect sinner into fellowship with, and into the kingdom of, his Son Jesus Christ. His call is rendered effectual by the quickening work of the Spirit of God the Father and God the Son in the hearts of the elect.
        By the Spirit’s regenerating work the elect sinner (1) is made spiritually alive, thereby opening and favorably disposing him to the things of the Spirit, which were foolishness to him before (1 Cor. 2:14), (2) is convinced of his sin, (3) is enlightened to the all-sufficiency of the Savior Jesus Christ as he is offered in the gospel, and (4) is renewed in his will, rendering him thereby willing (no sinner is brought to Christ against his will!) and able to embrace Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord. In other words, the Spirit’s work makes the sinner willing and able to repent and to believe, but his repenting and his believing per se are not aspects of the effectual call itself. They are his divinely effected responses to God’s effectual call which, taken together, are indicative of his conversion. “

      • sbcissues says:

        Wow… this statement is absolutely amazing.
        I am saying that conversion may or may not be immediate and concurrent to the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit.

        Doesn’t that fly in the face of effectual call? God calls and you respond when you get ready?

        I am really in shock that you are saying this. If regeneration just prepares someone to be converted and the effectual call is answered when a man chooses to repent when he gets ready…

        That is simply amazing and is now more convoluted that I originally thought!

      • Les Prouty says:

        Bob, all I have to do is show you one example from scripture. I gave you two…John the Baptizer and Jeremiah. The Spirit moves and works where you and I see not. And we do not know what all in His wisdom He will use in the entire process of salvation.

      • sbcissues says:

        I do not have a problem with this statement: And we do not know what all in His wisdom He will use in the entire process of salvation.

        What I have a problem with is the things you DO CLAIM TO KNOW that I do not believe are the case.

        This discussion has my head really spinning… I am in total shock.

      • Les Prouty says:

        Bob, I hope you are settled down brother. Now comes one of your own Southern Baptists writing:

        “NOTE. A man in one sense maybe called converted as soon as he has truly turned to God and is also seeking to know and do his will. This is that amount of conversion which is so nearly contemporaneous with regeneration as to be liable to be supposed to exist at the same moment with it, and which indeed in a being capable of thought on such subjects must be its immediate effect.
        But what the Scriptures and common language comprise in this word is repentance and trust in God’s saving power, and, in connection with Christian knowledge, trust in Jesus Christ as a Saviour. The attainment of the fullness of such conversion is by the gradual appreciation of truth, resulting not only from regeneration, and knowledge, but from spiritual illumination of the mind.”

        and…

        “The experience of ministers in all ages with persons seeking and attaining salvation confirms this idea. The attainment of conversion may be marked by stages. The sinner is at first totally indifferent. The word produces on him no effect. Then (1.) There is an evident willingness to give serious attention to the truth of God. God has opened the heart as he did that of Lydia. (2.) There is conviction of sin, sense of its vileness, and of its dangerous effects. (3.) The soul, oppressed by these, strives to do something by which to attain salvation, but finds all in vain. (4.) At last accepting the truth of God’s word it rests in trust of a personal Saviour.”

        JP Boyce

    • This is why I personally are reluctant to say that regeneration happens instantaneously. The conversion process could take months and even years as the Holy Spirit convicts, the sinner struggles, and slowly the light breaks in. Eventually there does come a crisis moment when the sinner gives up and surrenders his life to Christ in repentance and faith.
      But here is something else to think about. In the New Testament baptism filled a function similar to the altar call in some churches today — the formal, public declaration of faith in Christ. It can be argued that only then is our salvation sealed and we are formally united to Christ in the New Covenant.

      • sbcissues says:

        Wow again. I am really really shocked at what I am reading. If regeneration is the effectual saving work of God then it is virtually impossible for the “conversion process could take months and even years as the Holy Spirit convicts, the sinner struggles, and slowly the light breaks in. Eventually there does come a crisis moment when the sinner gives up and surrenders his life to Christ in repentance and faith.”

        This completely blows my mind! Even if I were a calvinist there is NO WAY I could own this kind of process with respect to the calvinist position on regeneration and effectual call.

        I do not see any way whatsoever to even attempt to combine the two!

  4. I am reluctant to call myself a “monergist” because we are not mindless robots — obviously the heart, intellect, affections and will are involved in the conversion process, although they can act only after they have been acted upon by the Holy Spirit.
    Dr. Hadley asks the question, why do some respond to the gospel and others do not? The question is addressed specifically in Scripture, once by Jesus Himself (John 6:36-66), and once by Paul (Romans 9). In both cases the immediate question was, why do so many Jews reject the gospel when they are God’s chosen people? The answer in both places is predestination.
    Having said that, two observations. First, on the subject of regeneration, we do have the parable of the soils that implies that certain people are more receptive to the gospel than others. But on the subject of sanctification it can be said that the immediate responsibility rests on us to use the means of grace to grow. And yet God is still sovereign in the overall process, sending revival when He wills to do so. How fortunate we are to be living today instead of during the Middle Ages! Ultimately it is all a part of God’s secret will.

    • Les Prouty says:

      TS, you said,

      “I am reluctant to call myself a “monergist” because we are not mindless robots — obviously the heart, intellect, affections and will are involved in the conversion process, although they can act only after they have been acted upon by the Holy Spirit.”

      For monergists the key part of what you said is “…after they have been acted upon by the Holy Spirit.”

      The monergist contends that this action of God whereby a dead sinner is made alive is what is monergistic.

      You also said, “I am reluctant to call myself a “monergist” because we are not mindless robots — obviously the heart, intellect, affections and will are involved in the conversion process, ”

      We monergists agree that we are not “mindless robots” and that “obviously the heart, intellect, affections and will are involved in the conversion process,”

      Again, “conversion process being the key here. We monergists have said elsewhere here that man is indeed in conversion (repentance and faith) after the monergistic work of God in the new birth.

      Blessings brother.

  5. Randy says:

    I guess here is what I want to know. I just finished up reading the minor prophets – I love the Old Testament. If it is impossible for man to repent without God regenerating him, why did God bother sending these prophets to call men to obedience, then condemn them to suffering and destruction when they disobeyed? Doesn’t this make God schizophrenic? He is mad at man for not repenting, but he is the only one capable of giving man the ability to repent, but he does not, then he punishes man for it. Am i missing something here, because this does not sound like the Almighty God I follow.

    • sbcissues says:

      Well… as I understand it… the Israelites were the elect and obedience is commanded but not demanded… in otherwords… men had the ability to obey or disobey once they were in the elect club.

      Synergism is the rule once monergism has done its thang. Apparently though, monergism only puts synergism into gear because it can take a while for God’s effectual call to take hold in a person’s heart.

      Ain’t that something!

    • Les Prouty says:

      Randy, I’m guessing this passage in Romans 9 is not new for you. But here it is anyway as God’s reply to your very question “why did God bother sending these prophets to call men to obedience, then condemn them to suffering and destruction when they disobeyed?”

      “4 What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! 15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed [k]throughout the whole earth.” 18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.

      19 You will say to me then, ***“Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?”*** 20 On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? 21 Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel [l]for honorable use and another [m]for common use?”

  6. sbcissues says:

    Gentlemen, you too Les,

    I have to be at the hospital by 5 on the morning so I am bowing out early… but I have a question for you all….

    Since conversion can come at a later date or year than regeneration… what happens to the guy who has been regenerated but has not repented who dies?

    Does that guy go to heaven because he has been regenerated and is obviously the elect or does he go to hell because he has not yet repented? Please do not say that will not happen because God will not allow that to happen.

    If conversion is synergistic as you guys have suggested, then it certainly could happen.

    So which wins out… regeneration sends him to heaven or not repenting sends him to hell?

    I will look forward to some real good answers to this one. Nite all.

    • Les Prouty says:

      Bob, I will reply more fully later. God bless your visits to the hospital. Or are you having medical issues? In either case, praying for God to bless you.

    • Les Prouty says:

      Bob,

      You said/asked:

      “Since conversion can come at a later date or year than regeneration… what happens to the guy who has been regenerated but has not repented who dies?”

      That guy immediately is in the presence of Jesus. He would be in the same situation as an infant or a severely mentally handicapped person. Obviously if he is of the elect, and he is since regeneration has happened, he goes to Jesus.

      Blessings bro.

    • rhutchin says:

      “Since conversion can come at a later date or year than regeneration… what happens to the guy who has been regenerated but has not repented who dies?”

      Let’s back up a second. Calvinists conclude that regeneration is necessary for a person to be saved. Calvinists also recognize the additional need for the Holy Spirit to convict a person of his sin and for a person to come under the preaching of the gospel (or just reading the Scriptures) for faith comes by hearing.

      So, how much time does this take – usually we would not think years. It may (should?) be a very quick process. The point made by the Calvinists is that it is necessary that God initiate this process through regeneration and no person can be saved if God does not do this.

      Regeneration – the removal of the hard heart and the blindness imposed by Satan – suggests that the person is able to come to salvation very quickly or at least as quickly as the person hears the Scriptures or even just reads them. It is not unheard of for a person to say, I knew what I was doing was wrong but did not know what to do about it. No reprobate person thinks that. Then we have people who go to church for years and think salvation is all about going to church.

      Most people seem to conclude that God had to save them saying that God was merciful to them in the time that it took for them to come to their senses.

  7. If you read the older writers describing their own conversion experiences you can see how the process works — Bunyan, Wesley, Brainerd, etc. It often involved a protracted spiritual struggle. In many cases these men went on to become great preachers, and what made their preaching so effective was the fact that their conversion experiences gave them such a sense of the reality of eternity.
    But we are justified by faith. If a sinner dies without faith he is lost. If he dies believing he is saved.
    The Westminster Shorter Catechism makes an important distinction between a “work” and an “act.” A “work” is something that takes place over a span of time; an “act” happens instantaneously. Thus effectual calling is “the work of God’s Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ freely offered to us in the gospel” (Q. 31). But justification is “an act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.” (Q. 33). We are saved the moment we are justified.

  8. Clay G says:

    wow… so this has my head spinning too brothers!

    Bob asks:
    “Since conversion can come at a later date or year than regeneration… what happens to the guy who has been regenerated but has not repented who dies?”

    Les answers:
    “That guy immediately is in the presence of Jesus. He would be in the same situation as an infant or a severely mentally handicapped person. Obviously if he is of the elect, and he is since regeneration has happened, he goes to Jesus.”

    so now we have someone fully capable of repentance and faith who has neither repented nor placed faith in Christ, but they make it to heaven anyway?

    • Les Prouty says:

      That’s correct Clay, in Bob’s hypothetical. Could it happen? Is it a remote possibility? Sure. This man would be immediately justified and received into the presence of Jesus same as an infant who couldn’t exercise faith and repentance. The key in Bob’s hypothetical is he is regenerated. But of course the usual way is regeneration followed by conversion.

      All that said, we are in deep hypotheticals here. Truth is, as I indicated earlier, we certainly cannot know about someone else…when they saw their sin and repented in faith…and even the person may not be able to discern it. In my own case, I cannot tell you an hour and day when I was regenerated and believed. I think I have it narrowed to about a six month period.

      • formeratheist says:

        Next question then in this highly hypothetical situation. So, I am assuming from this that you would agree it is possible to be elect and not know it? My next question becomes is it possible to think you are elect and you are not? If I think I am elect, is there a test for me to be sure that I am?

  9. Les Prouty says:

    formeratheist,

    “So, I am assuming from this that you would agree it is possible to be elect and not know it?” Of course. There are many of the elect walking around right now who have consiously rejected the gospel, some repeated times, and yet are of the elect who will one day truly bow before Almighty God in repentance and faith.

    “My next question becomes is it possible to think you are elect and you are not?” Again, of course. There are false professors all over the place. I know of some who have professed faith, studied doctrine and even been preachers who have apostazied and renounced the faith and died in that state. One can assume they were not of the elect but were false professors and false teachers who “went out from us because they were never of us.” Also see Matthew 7.

    “If I think I am elect, is there a test for me to be sure that I am?” Sure.

    His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

    (2 Peter 1:3-11 ESV)

    • formeratheist says:

      This becomes a very twisted theology for me. If this is all true, then Judas Iscariot is one of the greatest heroes of the Bible. We’ve vilified the man that was chosen to betray Christ so that he may die for the sins of the elect. God chose Judas, indeed the Lord Jesus Christ chose Judas, or rather elected him, to be a key part of his plan of salvation for the elect. Sound far fetched? This type of thinking led to Judas Iscariot being revered by a sect of Gnostics that composed the heretical Gospel of Judas. I think the sort of theology that Calvinism espouses is contrary to the overarching narrative of God’s Holy Word. To the Calvinist, that must mean one of a couple of things about me, either (a) I am not one of the elect as I reject this theology and would refuse to follow a God who condones it, or (b) God elected me to reject Calvinism…

    • Les Prouty says:

      formeratheist,

      Well I would not call Judas a hero of the bible. But there is no denying that he unwittingly was an instrument of God in God’s plan of the cross.

      You can also see this sort of thing in Habakkuk, right? The Assyrians doing what Assyrians do and carrying out God’s decreed plans in the process. Unwittingly instruments in God’s hand and control.

    • rhutchin says:

      “To the Calvinist, that must mean one of a couple of things about me, either (a) I am not one of the elect as I reject this theology and would refuse to follow a God who condones it, or (b) God elected me to reject Calvinism…”

      The act of election is a work of God applied only to those whom He has saves. Of those whom God does not elect, we say that He passed over them doing nothing to save them. This is because people are sinners in need of salvation – God does not elect a person to sin. God ordains the reprobate to death but need not elect them to death.

      If you reject the call to salvation expressed in the Scriptures and by preachers/evangelists/teachers then you coincidentally reject Calvinist theology but so what? The important point is that you reject the Scriptures which is what Calvinists preach/teach.

  10. Dennis L. Dabney says:

    As the thief on the cross life ebbed away, while darkness of death covered his very soul, he saw the “Light” and proclaimed to the other criminal these important truths relative to salvation:

    1.) The fear of God was before him

    2.) He acknowledged his sinfulness, his guilt was expressed and the just penalty accepted

    3.) He bore witness of Christ sinless perfection as the Son of Man

    4.) He called Him Lord, indicating The Deity of Christ

    5.) He believed Christ would be raised from the dead in order to enter into His Kingdom

    6.) He believed in a literal Kingdom in which The Lord Jesus Christ is the King of the Kingdom of God

    I told our congregation a few weeks ago, if the thief who saw the “Light” had not been nailed to the cross, but on the ground, he would have been the only soul waiting there in Galilee for the Lord to show up. This Brother like the other thief was nailed to a cross beside the Word Himself, the Light of the world and received the word in short order. His understanding was elementary but what he knew was all that was required. He was fully persuaded that Christ was about to enter His kingdom as He had said. This repentant sinner was finished with sin and by faith believed on the Beloved.

    Preach!

  11. sbcissues says:

    Les and ANYONE else…

    I do not agree with the whole concept of regeneration as you know. However if I did, I WOULD NOT say that God regenerates a dead, blind person which changes his nature so that he CAN believe at some point down the road! And to top that off… you are saying that God’s effectual call is not immediate? How on earth do you define effectual?

    That would be like using the illustration you guys use of Jesus calling Lazarus to new life and telling him to come out from the tomb… after waiting a little while… with no response from Lazarus… Jesus looks at Martha and Mary and says… lets go eat dinner… he will be out when he gets ready to come out.

    I thought the whole argument of regeneration and effectual call was that God’s call is effectual and the elect immediately repent and believe and exercise faith which is a gift from God as well.

    How on earth can you hold this theology and then say… conversion is synergistic?

    And what is even worse… blast the non-calvinist for a synergistic view of conversion on top of that?

    I am still just shockingly amazed at this whole discussion.

    Do not get me wrong, I agree that there is a salvific process that involves a number of factors in a person coming to Christ… so I agree with that part I just do not agree that this is possible in a calvinist framework.

    • Les Prouty says:

      Shocking hat you disagree. Shocking I tell you.

      Effectual: “producing or able to produce a desired effect.” There is no specificity of time in the definition. Again, see John the Baptizer and Jeremiah and Timothy for examples of a significant time lapse between regeneration and conversion.

    • Les Prouty says:

      More shock from a brother who agrees with me:

      “Over against those who think of conversion only as a definite crisis in life, it should be noted that, while conversion may be such a sharply marked crisis, it may also be a very gradual change. Older theology has always distinguished between sudden and gradual conversions (as in the cases of Jeremiah, John the Baptist, and Timothy); and in our day the psychology of conversion stresses the same distinction. Crisis conversions are most frequent in days of religious declension, and in the lives of those who have not enjoyed the privileges of a real religious education, and who have wandered far from the path of truth, of righteousness, and of holiness.”

  12. Dennis L. Dabney says:

    Hades is a place where no excuses exist for entering the realm of the spiritual dead. Those who trifle with the known will of God in this life will have no occasion in Hell to blame God for having sent them there. Where else can He send those who reject the “Light”? The Rich man in Hades is our witness to this immutable truth in this connection. He was the captain of the ship of his life and made shipwreck when he refused to repent and believe Moses. Election never entered his mind when he desired Lazarus to go from Abraham’s bosom to his father’s house to witness and testify to his brother’s that they repent.

    Take a look at those who will make up the residence of this place. Satan, Anti-Christ, the False Prophet, and the angels which fell with him. Now all of them rebelled against the only True God who is alone good. Now for the children of men to join those mentioned above and end up in the same place suggest they made some critical choices in this lifetime which had eternal implications along the lines of rebellion.

    Repentance deals exclusively with sin. Sin against God and His will. Man has a sin problem and the reality is he loves sin. He’s not all that crazy about anyone coming along upsetting his apple cart of sin. When I was in the world the last person I wanted to run into or hear was a bible thumping preacher. I looked for a preacher like a thief a policeman. The lost sinner loves sin just like the sow loves the mire and can’t get enough of it. Man refuses to repent due to the fact he loves darkness and his deeds are evil. This is the recipe for eternal damnation in the face of the only Friend in the world the sinner has, the Lord Jesus Christ. He told some of those who refused to believe while He was on earth “You will die in you sins”!

    Preach!

  13. The great English Puritan theologian John Owen distinguished between “the preparatory work of the Holy Spirit” and actual regeneration. The preparatory work includes illumination and the conviction of sin, and sometimes an outward reformation of life. Interestingly, it doesn’t always result in regeneration itself, however.

  14. Mel Boek says:

    Les,
    In your second post you contend:

    “There is actually scriptural evidence of some who were regenerated a long time before their conversion. John the Baptizer and Jeremiah comer to mind.So there is no problem in a view where there can be some lapse of time between regeneration and conversion. God the Holy Spirit regenerates the person who perhaps immediately is well aware of their sinfulness and need of Jesus. Others can see a lapse of time as they more and more come to understand the things of God (since previous to their regeneration they could not–their minds and hearts being darkened). It could be hours, days, years (see John the Baptizer and Jeremiah).”

    In your understanding, if regeneration can occur a long time before conversion, what kind of life is given in regeneration, and where does the scripture teach about this kind of life?

    • Les Prouty says:

      Hi Mel. I was surprised to see a new comment. I suspect Bob has been very busy and thus isn’t posting much.

      On this issue Mel I admittedly cannot be sure how to answer your question. It appears such that John the Baptizer was born again in the womb, he was filled with the Spirit, but I admit it only appears that way. I won’t build a case for it since I cannot say 100%. What I said is there is “scriptural evidence” and that is interpretative. Same for Jeremiah.

      So why might I say there CAN be such? If I believe that regeneration is monergistic, and I o, then all human action in regeneration is removed. Not one iota of human activity is involved in regeneration. Of course Calvinists do believe that human activity (faith and repentance) is involved in conversion. That’s what conversion is. So for instance, that is why way the majority of protestants have believed that infants dying in infancy are regenerated and immediately in the presence of Jesus. They don’t have the capacity to exercise faith.

      As to what life is given in regeneration, here again describing it is not easy. It is “new” life according to scripture. It is a change in status…death to life…thus making possible the faith and repentance. It is the removal of scales and the removal of deafness, both sight and hearing being spiritual matters of course.

      My point is that we don’t know when exactly the spiritual awakening occurs even in our own lives, much less in others. What WE see and experience consciously is the results of that awakening. Jesus becomes lovely rather than hated by us. Our awareness of sin occurs like never before. Oh yes, a Hitler type can have pangs of guilt at times and remorse for murdering people (God has written the law on every man’s heart), but his remorse and sorrow is not biblical repentance of sin. And for some people, the realization comes more slowly than for others as God’s Spirit reveals things to the newly seeing and hearing person.

      That’s about all I have brother.

      Les

      • Mel Boek says:

        Les,

        I believe that you have accepted an erroneous description (or definition) of the work of God in regeneration. Therefore it is difficult to be precise and to back up your contentions with the Scripture.

        You stated,
        “As to what life is given in regeneration, here again describing it is not easy. It is “new” life according to scripture. It is a change in status…death to life…thus making possible the faith and repentance. It is the removal of scales and the removal of deafness, both sight and hearing being spiritual matters of course.”

        Please give me the Scriptures that lead you to the conclusion that “new” life is given in regeneration. And please add any Scripture that gives us additional detail about this “new” life.

    • rhutchin says:

      Cornelius is another example. He was “A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house” (Acts 10). So, we conclude that he had been regenerated else he would not have an greater regard for God than any other god. He had no knowledge of Christ until Peter came and preached to him. He then believed and was baptized – “Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?”

      Then there are the disciples of John in Acts 19. They believed based on the preaching of John the Baptist. When Paul preached to them of Christ, they then believed in Christ and were baptized into His name.

      These are special cases. However, both Cornelius and the disciples had no knowledge of Christ but believed in God – thus, they were regenerated. Later, they came to know Christ – were effectually called – and came to believe on Him.

      • sbcissues says:

        Your conclusion is that these were regenerated. This is not a scripturally based conclusion. They had a knowledge of the God of Israel and believed in Him probably because of the influence of some Jewish believers… (not Christian believers).

        The Holy Spirit is unquestionably working in their hearts but to try to say they were regenerated in the calvinist sense is a serious stretch.

      • Les Prouty says:

        rhutchin,

        I see where Doug invoked me over at SBC Today, “Have you been getting some help from Les P?” earlier. I would have commented there, but alas. I was banned about mid last year. But you argue Reformed theology very well. You need no help from me brother.

    • sbcissues says:

      Mel,

      Your question, ” if regeneration can occur a long time before conversion, what kind of life is given in regeneration” is the exact point I am trying to make here.

      I do not see HOW regeneration can take place in the lost person and that person not IMMEDIATELY repent and believe. If regeneration is what the calvinist claims it is then a progressive conversion experience seems awful slippery to me.

      I do not see how one can say that God effectually calls the unregenerate to new life and then argue that man repents on his own timetable. Just does not seem logically feasible to me.

      Make no mistake about it, I do believe conversion is a process that can take a while to complete; but conversion is not the result of a prior regeneration experience where this “new life” and a “new nature” are given and sometime later the person repents and believes and is “saved.”

  15. Mel Boek says:

    I didn’t want this to get lost in the thread, so I am re-posting this:

    Les,

    I believe that you have accepted an erroneous description (or definition) of the work of God in regeneration. Therefore it is difficult to be precise and to back up your contentions with the Scripture.

    You stated,
    “As to what life is given in regeneration, here again describing it is not easy. It is “new” life according to scripture. It is a change in status…death to life…thus making possible the faith and repentance. It is the removal of scales and the removal of deafness, both sight and hearing being spiritual matters of course.”

    Please give me the Scriptures that lead you to the conclusion that “new” life is given in regeneration. And please add any Scripture that gives us additional detail about this “new” life.

    • Les Prouty says:

      Mel,

      Been busy moving my son all day. Still going at it. I’ll be back later tonight.

    • Les Prouty says:

      Hi Mel. Sorry it took me so long, but I have a break now. You said,

      “I believe that you have accepted an erroneous description (or definition) of the work of God in regeneration. Therefore it is difficult to be precise and to back up your contentions with the Scripture.”

      Well, you’re certainly entitled to your belief. It is surely possible that thousands and thousands of theologians through the centuries, and the Westminster Confession drafters, and I, could be wrong. That is possible.

      “Please give me the Scriptures that lead you to the conclusion that “new” life is given in regeneration.”

      “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”

      See that section, “made us alive?”

      “And please add any Scripture that gives us additional detail about this “new” life.”

      We have been brought from death to life: “Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life.”

      We are a new creation: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.”

      Of course we have been “born again.” See John 3

      Warfield said that regeneration is “a radical and complete transformation wrought in the soul (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:23) by God the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5; Eph. 4:24), by virtue of which we become ‘new men’ (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10), no longer conformed to this world (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:22; Col. 3:9), but in knowledge and holiness of the truth created after the image of God (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10; Rom. 12:2)” I agree with Warfield.

      Packer said of regeneration: “It enlightens the blinded mind to discern spiritual realities (I Cor. 2:14-15; II Cor. 4:6; Col. 3:10), and liberates and energizes the enslaved will for free obedience to God (Rom. 6:14, 17-22; Phil. 2:13).” I agree with Packer.

      Scotsman David Dickson said of regeneration: “Regeneration is the work of God’s invincible power and mere grace, wherein by his Spirit accompanying his Word he quickeneth a redeemed person lying dead in his sins and reneweth him in his mind, his will and all the powers of his soul, convincing him savingly of sin and righteousness and judgment, and making him heartily to embrace Christ and salvation, and to consecrate himself to the service of God in Christ all the days of his life.”

      Eric Alexander says of regeneration and the necessity of it: “It is significant that the New Testament uses such radical language to describe Christian beginnings, language like resurrection, regeneration and re­creation. For it is teaching that being brought out of darkness into light is something that can only be paralleled by a birth. It is like a new life beginning. It is parallel, if you like to a new creation. “God, who said, ‘Let light shine out darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).”

      Mel, I know you’ve written a lot more here…a couple of essays it seems. Maybe Bob will make them into a series from you. Never know.

      God bless,

      Les

  16. Mel Boek says:

    Rhutchin,

    I’m glad you referenced Cornelius as a possible example of one who may have been regenerated long before he heard the gospel and was converted. This story poses questions when I view it through a “Reformed lens”.

    First let me ask you, is there a point of time in a person’s life when they are “saved”? For instance, the Philippian jailor asked Paul, “What must I do to be saved?” And Paul responded, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.” When the jailor placed his faith into Jesus Christ was he immediately saved? Or, Paul tells us in Romans 10:13 “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved”. Are men saved the moment that they call upon the Lord? (Securely saved, in such a way that there is no way to lose their salvation?) If so, then what is the work of God, or the work of Christ that saves them in that moment?

    The reason that I ask this question is because of your reference to Cornelius. You revealed that you believed that he had already been regenerated when the angel came to visit him. (A logical conclusion IF Romans 3:10-18 describes the unregenerate, “…none who seeks for God…no fear of God before their eyes”, then one like Cornelius who was seeking God and fearing God would not fit into the unregenerate group.) From your understanding then, the angel was addressing a man who had already been regenerated. Yet the angel tells Cornelius that he is to send for Peter because “he shall speak words to you by which you WILL BE SAVED…” (Acts 11:13, 14). Similarly Paul explains, “the gospel is the power of God TO SALVATION for everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). Salvation is for those who believe. What is the work of God that saves a man when he “believes on the name of the Lord” or “calls upon the name of the Lord”?

    Let’s look at the Reformed Order of Salvation:
    *Election
    *The gospel call
    *Regeneration
    *Conversion
    *Justification
    *Adoption
    *Sanctification
    *Perseverance
    *Death
    *Glorification

    (Note: In my opinion there are two very important things missing from the Reformed Order of Salvation. First- Salvation! Second- God’s gift of eternal life! The Bible clearly informs us that we receive these essential gifts when we place our trust into Jesus Christ!)

    Again, you seemed to concur with Les that there can be a span of time between regeneration and conversion, with Cornelius as your example. You stated that he had already been regenerated when the angel told him that Peter would speak words by which he would be saved. What was the work of God that saved Cornelius after Peter preached the gospel, and Cornelius believed? First we know that the faith and repentance of conversion did not save Cornelius, because a man cannot save himself. What did God or Jesus do when Cornelius placed his faith into Christ? According to the Ordo Salutis, the only ‘things’ that God alone does at the moment of conversion is “justification” and “adoption” (sanctification and perseverance are synergistic processes that occur typically over the rest of a person’s lifetime). According to Reformed Theology “justification” is merely God thinking about a man in a different way: God now counts the man as righteous. “Justification” is not something that God does to a man, or in a man. “Adoption” is not something that God does upon a man or in a man. Is a man saved merely because God now thinks about him differently?

    Is our salvation merely having God think differently about us?

    Or is there a specific work of God in a man, and upon a man when he places his trust in Christ—an essential work that is missing from the Ordo Salutis?

  17. Mel Boek says:

    Bob,
    I appreciate the work that you have put into your blog!

    You stated,
    “Make no mistake about it, I do believe conversion is a process that can take a while to complete; but conversion is not the result of a prior regeneration experience where this “new life” and a “new nature” are given and sometime later the person repents and believes and is “saved.””

    Did you mean to say that ‘conversion’ was a process? Or, that there is a multi-faceted process that occurs before conversion? Would it be more precise for us to say that conversion is a once in a lifetime event which occurs the instant a person repents and places his trust into the Lord Jesus Christ? And there is a process involving a number of elements in the life of an unbeliever prior to his conversion?

    This blog thread began with the question, “Why do some repent and are saved while others do not”? I am assuming this question was addressed as the question that a Calvinist would ask to segue into a doctrinal discussion which pushes the view that a man must be regenerated before he will be converted (totally changed by regeneration so that he can perceive – ‘see’ and ‘hear’- the gospel, understand the gospel, desire to have Christ be his Savior, and have the freedom of will to choose to repent and believe). The answer to this question for the Calvinist is obviously that God chose those who would repent, and regenerated them so they could/would repent. This answer, based upon faulty presuppositions, obviously misses an entire body of truth that speaks of a ‘process’ that occurs before a man believes and is saved by the new birth. So I will express an answer this question if I were asked by a Calvinist!

    First, we have an agricultural analogy given to us by the Lord Himself and the Apostle Paul. There are those who sow the Seed (the Word) into men’s hearts (see Mark 4:14, 15 and Luke 8:5, 11, 12). Does a seed planted in the ground today yield its harvest today? No. When a gospel message is given, there may be some in whom the Word is just being implanted. A person who has just had the Word of God planted in his heart will not come to the Lord during this gospel presentation, just as a Seed will not produce its crop in the day it is planted.

    The Lord gives us an interesting insight into the time when the seed is first sown into the heart. “Now the seed is the Word of God. The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved” (Luke 8:11-12). Note that Jesus specifically tells us that the ones on the path have “heard”! Let’s look at this verse from a Reformed perspective for a moment. Supposedly, only the regenerate can “hear” the Word. Can the devil steal away the Word from a regenerate person’s heart so that he cannot believe and be saved? Not under the Reformed system. In my understanding, the effectual call, regeneration, and irresistible grace guarantee that a person will believe and be saved. So there is a problem here! Maybe Jesus meant that the person “heard”, but they really hadn’t been given new “ears to hear” yet (they hadn’t been regenerated yet). But there is a problem with this notion from the Reformed perspective as well. Is Satan aware of the spiritual condition of the unregenerate? If a person is unregenerate according to Reformed Doctrine, it does not matter how much of the Word is preached (sown into their hearts), for they cannot hear or understand it, and they never will have the ability to “believe and be saved”, unless God extends an effectual call and irresistible grace, and regenerates the individual; in which case the individual is guaranteed salvation. Why then, if this Reformed view is true, would the devil bother to steal away the seed? There would be no purpose for the devil to waste his time and energy under the Reformed system. Yet, the Lord tells us specifically that this person has “heard” the Word, and the devil tries to steal the Word for a specific reason: so that the individual will not believe and be saved.

    An early step in the ‘process’ that occurs before the person believes and is saved is the sowing of the Word. The Word that is planted in a person’s heart is supernatural! When a seed is planted in the soil it lays there out of site, but by God’s design the seed has a big job to do before there will be a harvest. We may not see any or all of the activity of a seed while it is in the soil. In the same way, the Word is sown into a person’s heart, and if the devil is not successful in taking away the seed, it too is active in a person’s life. “The Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword…a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). Paul tells us a little more about the “process”. “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase” (1Cor. 3:6). There is a time for watering the seed. And then of course there comes a time when the field is “white already to harvest” (John 4:35). At the end of the process of sowing and watering, God has others who will ‘reap the harvest’ (John 4:36-38).

    The agricultural analogy describes a process that takes time between the first planting of a seed and its harvest. But there is more influence on the individual than just the living, active Word of God. Jesus told us that after He left, He would send the Spirit, and when He comes, will convict the world (not believers) concerning sin, righteousness and the judgment (John 16:7-8). Can the Holy Spirit act upon the hearts and minds of unbelievers before He takes up residence in their hearts? Yes, of course. It was the night before Christ died when Jesus revealed that He would have to go away before the Helper (Holy Spirit) would come to his disciples (John 16:7). Jesus said that He was going to ask the Father to send the Comforter, that He would abide with them forever… and shall be in you (John 14:16-17). This references a new work that will take place after Christ goes away! The Spirit was active in the lives of men before the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. But He is given in a whole new way after Christ goes away.

    So far we have spoken of 2 elements in the process, the living and powerful Word of God, and the Holy Spirit. There is also the preachers who proclaim the Word about Jesus Christ. “How shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard” (Rom. 10:14). The brain is involved in the process before conversion; there are things that an individual needs to learn. The individual needs to hear about the Lord Jesus Christ from a ‘preacher’ before they will believe and be saved. God sends out the preachers; those who plant, water, and harvest through ‘proclaiming’ the Word of God, the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. And, although I believe there are more ‘influences’ at work in the pre-conversion process, I will mention but one more. The Bible tells us that it is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance (Rom. 2:4). The message of God’s love is a powerful component in the process that occurs before conversion.

    To sum up, I contend that people are at different places in the ‘process’ when the gospel is presented on any given day. They are not all ‘ready to harvest’. Some need to have the Word sown into their hearts. Others are still in the watering stage. But, some may be ready to harvest, and these will repent and be saved by regeneration. The Bible does not teach that a person is brought to faith by God’s grace or by a work of God’s grace (i.e. effectual call/irresistible grace/regeneration). Paul tells us that “we have obtained our introduction by faith into the grace in which we stand” (Rom. 5:2 NASB; KJV- “we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand”). And the Bible gives an astounding amount of detail of a work that is done by Jesus Christ upon a man and in a man after he places his trust into the Lord Jesus Christ. This is a New Testament work which culminates in a man becoming a holy temple of God– a place where God now dwells.

  18. Mel Boek says:

    Bob,
    I couldn’t resist interacting with a few of your comments!

    You stated,
    “I do not see HOW regeneration can take place in the lost person and that person not IMMEDIATELY repent and believe. If regeneration is what the calvinist claims it is then a progressive conversion experience seems awful slippery to me.”

    Perhaps irresistible grace is not so irresistible? :)

    I agree with you. Especially when so many go to so much length to differentiate between a “logical order” and a “temporal order” between regeneration and faith. They must differentiate between the “temporal order” and “logical order” because, most often Reformed writers indicate that a person believes in the exact same instant that he was regenerated.

    You also stated,
    “I do not see how one can say that God effectually calls the unregenerate to new life and then argue that man repents on his own timetable. Just does not seem logically feasible to me.”

    They do make that contingency in their theology books though. What does that say about “irresistible grace”? Apparently there is a time where some can resist the effectual call and the irresistible grace. I wonder how Calvinists picture these who come to repentance long after they were regenerated? Are they still like Lazarus in the tomb, even though God has extended them His effectual call? :) Are they waiting for something more? :)

    You speak of a time between regeneration and conversion as not being “logically feasible” in the Reformed system. But have you considered the “logical feasibility” of the teaching that a spiritually dead man places his faith into Jesus Christ in the same instant that he is regenerated??? Consider—there is a dead man who cannot “hear” or “understand” anything spiritual. He may have sat regularly in church for years, never really hearing or understanding a thing. Then one day there is a gospel call, and God, through this gospel call, extends His effectual call and regenerates that spiritually dead man who has not heard or understood anything, and yet in the very instant that he is regenerated, he is placing his faith into the Lord Jesus Christ! To me, that is not logically feasible! When did he have time to “hear” any of the gospel message? When did he have time to process any of the gospel message, or the time to gain an understanding of the gospel message?

    Consider these quotes by Wayne Grudem in his Systematic Theology, the chapter on “Conversion”:
    *** “Of course it is necessary that we have some knowledge of who Christ is and what he has done, for, ‘how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard?” (pg. 709) – When did those who instantly believe at the moment they were regenerated “hear” anything about the Lord Jesus Christ, let alone gain the knowledge that they needed?
    *** “In addition to knowledge of the facts of the gospel and approval of those facts, in order to be saved, I must decide to depend on Jesus to save me. In doing this I move from being an interested observer of the facts of salvation and the teachings of the Bible to being someone who enters into a new relationship with Jesus Christ as a living person.” (pg. 710) – If a person believes the very instant that he is regenerated, then when was he an ‘interested observer of the facts of salvation’—since the unregenerate supposedly hate God, and the more they hear of Him the more they hate Him? By definition the unregenerate are not interested observers of the facts of salvation and the teachings of the Bible! And again, when did this person “hear” the facts of the gospel and gain the necessary knowledge?
    *** “When a person comes to trust in Christ, all three elements must be present. There must be some basic knowledge or understanding of the facts of the gospel. There must also be approval of, or agreement with, these facts. Such agreement includes a conviction that the facts spoken of the gospel are true, especially the fact that I am a sinner in need of salvation and that Christ alone has paid the penalty for my sin and offers salvation to me. It also includes an awareness that I need to trust in Christ for salvation and that he is the only way to God, and the only means provided for my salvation. This approval of the facts of the gospel will also involve a desire to be saved through Christ. But all of this still does not add up to true saving faith. That comes only when I make a decision of my will to depend on, or put my trust in, Christ as my Savior. This personal decision to place my trust in Christ is something done with my heart, the central faculty of my entire being that makes commitments for me as a whole person.” (pg. 712). – If we are taught that a person believes at the very instant that they regenerated, then it is A MIRACLE, I REPEAT, A MIRACLE that a person could gain all of this knowledge, and understanding, and have a conviction and approval about facts that they have not heard, realize that they are a sinner in need of salvation, and gain an awareness of his need to trust Christ as his Savor, and have the desire to be saved by Christ, and make a decision of his will, and act upon that decision by trusting in Christ with his heart, ALL between the point of regeneration and conversion!!! (I actually think that I can read the list faster than a person could actually do all of the things on the list, and it still takes me several seconds to just read it! –)

    • sbcissues says:

      But have you considered the “logical feasibility” of the teaching that a spiritually dead man places his faith into Jesus Christ in the same instant that he is regenerated???

      Actually I have and have written about it. You see, calvinism does not allow the gospel to be the power of God unto regeneration… if he has a dead heart, deaf ears and blinded eyes… the gospel has NO POWER to regenerate and cannot be the means God uses to regenerate ANYONE. Regeneration in the calvinist system is God’s effectual call plain and simple. Once a person is regenerated THEN and only then does the gospel have ANY power to do ANYTHING where conversion and salvation are concerned.

      I do like the argument you make (if I am reading you correctly) where you say a spiritually dead person is regenerated and immediately has the gospel and is saved; pretty good statement. Quite incredible isn’t it?

      Calvinism simply is a DOG that does not hunt for me. I cannot fathom anyone accepting this total depravity and inability position; to argue that man has no capacity whatsoever to respond positively to God’s initiative in revelation and reconciliation is simply ludicrous. TO argue that God and God alone decides who does and does not repent is I believe an indictment on God’s character.

      But these folks exist and are sadly taking over the SBC. They are still a very vocal minority that is growing. Sad day for the SBC.

  19. Mel Boek says:

    Les,
    I have written 2 different responses, but they were both too long. So I am only going to address the first verse, which you give as a proof text for your contention that “new life” is given to a man in regeneration (as opposed to eternal life which a man receives after he places his trust into Jesus Christ). Most of this post is a rich assortment of convincing proof-texts.

    Eph 2:4-5
    “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)”

    You stated:
    “See that section, “made us alive?””

    The Greek word used in Eph. 2:5 is not simply “made alive”. There is a Greek word to ‘make alive’ or revitalize (Strong’s #2227) used in the Bible. But the Greek word in this text is a blend of “made alive” and another word which denotes “union” (See Strong’s #4806). Strong gives the definition for the word used in Eph. 2:5 as “to reanimate conjointly with”, and the whole phrase “made alive together with” is our English equivalent of this one Greek word.

    The only way to be “made alive together with Christ” is to have Christ come to dwell in our heart (Eph. 3:17). The Bible is clear, Jesus, the long awaited Christ, now dwells in us (“Christ lives in me” – Gal. 2:20; “Christ in me” –Rom. 8:10; “Christ in you” –Col. 1:27; “His Son in me”—Gal. 1:16). Jesus gives us life (“Christ is our life” –Col. 3:4). And the kind of life that Jesus gives us is His resurrected life: eternal life.

    “This is the record that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has THE SON has the life, and he who does not have THE SON OF GOD does not have life” (I John 5:11-12)

    Only those who have THE SON OF GOD have “life” (“life” = “eternal life”). There is only one test to know if someone is in the faith—“that Jesus Christ is in you” (2Cor. 13:5). This is purely a New Testament reality, a brand new relationship that only exists between Christ and His Church (Eph. 5:32). We have been joined to Christ (1Cor. 6:17), a union represented by God joining a man to his wife (Eph. 5:31; Matt 19:6). And when we were joined to Christ, and indwelt by Christ, we were “made alive conjointly with” Him: “made alive together with” Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ in us gives us God’s gift of eternal life. We are born again when Jesus comes to live inside of us. The life we receive in regeneration is eternal life.

    Other verses which teach about the new birth also correlate the life we receive to eternal life. For instance, Peter tells us that we were born again through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1Pet. 1:3). What kind of life did Jesus receive in the resurrection? Eternal life—(“Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more” (Rom. 6:9); “I am He that liveth, and was dead, and behold I am ALIVE FOREVERMORE” (Rev. 1:18)). When a person is born again, he has “been born again not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God WHICH LIVETH AND ABIDETH FOREVER” (1Pet. 3:23). The seed of the new birth is eternal, and it produces eternal life. When a person is born of the eternal Spirit the life that is imparted is eternal life. Eternal life is given in the new birth.

    Christ’s presence in us gives us the life we receive in the new birth. Look at this plethora of verses that relate “life” to Christ:

    “The Last Adam became a LIFE-GIVING spirit!” (1Cor. 15:45)

    Before Jesus, the Last Adam, became a life-giving Spirit, Jesus claimed to be THE LIFE: “I am the way, the truth and THE LIFE…” (Jn 14:6); “I am the bread of LIFE” (Jn 6:48); “I am the resurrection and THE LIFE” (Jn. 11:25). Luke called Him “the Prince of LIFE” (Acts 3:15). The Apostle John makes the connection between the Lord Jesus Christ and eternal life: “For the LIFE was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that ETERNAL LIFE, WHICH WAS WITH THE FATHER, AND WAS MANIFESTED TO US” (1Jn 1:2). Additionally John proclaimed, “In Him was LIFE” (Jn. 1:4), and recorded, “For as the Father has LIFE in Himself, so He has given to the Son to have LIFE in Himself” (John 5:26).

    Jesus not only claimed to be LIFE, He also told men that He would give them LIFE: “As the LIVING Father hath sent me, and I LIVE by the Father: so he that eateth me, even HE SHALL LIVE by me” (John 6:57). “And I give unto them ETERNAL LIFE; and they shall never perish…” (Jn 10:28). “For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth LIFE unto the world” (Jn 6:33). “…everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you…” (John 6:40). Men were not receiving life by regeneration at the time Jesus walked this earth. Jesus told Nicodemus that “the Son of Man must be lifted up (on the cross to die) in order that whosoever would believe in Him would not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:14, 15). Jesus, The Last Adam, would be the source of eternal life in a man.

    “God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might LIVE through Him” (1John 4:9)

    No one was “born again THROUGH THE RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD” before there was a resurrection from the dead. Jesus did not dwell in men’s hearts before the day of Pentecost—the day that the church began (the day the Father began joining men to His Son). There was no regeneration before the day of Pentecost. Why even Wayne Grudem acknowledges that regeneration is a new covenant work of God predicted by Ezekiel when he wrote: “This sovereign work of God in regeneration was also PREDICTED in a PROPHPECY of Ezekiel. Through him, God POINTED TO A TIME IN THE FUTURE when he would give new spiritual life to His people.” (and) “Ezekiel here speaks of a spiritual washing that will come in the days of the NEW COVENANT when GOD PUTS HIS SPIRIT WITHIN HIS PEOPLE.” (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, pg. 699 & 973). IF God had already been regenerating people since the book of Genesis, then why is Ezekiel PREDICTING a time IN THE FUTURE when God will give new spiritual life to His people? An interesting quandary for a Calvinist, for by their definition a “spiritually dead man” requires regeneration before they can have faith that pleases God, and since men from Abel onward pleased God through their faith, then a Calvinist must falsely assume that God was already regenerating men in Genesis 4. But, why then is there a prophecy regarding a future work some time past Ezekiel’s time, which was near the end of the O.T.?

    Another prominent Calvinist, John Piper has come to recognize that the life given in regeneration is eternal life. The following insightful quotes, (but devastating to Reformed theology), come from a message available online: “Receive with Meekness the Implanted Word” preached on 1/6/08. This message and others in this series were put in a book called, “Finally Alive”. QUOTE: “The second objective historical event that had to happen for us to be born again with eternal life was the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead..so the point is that by the new birth, God means for us to have not just new life, but eternal life… Our new life in the new birth will last forever… His life becomes our life. So it makes sense that Jesus Christ must be raised from the dead if we are to have new life in union with Him…NEW BIRTH HAPPENS, YOU REMEMBER, IN UNION WITH THE INCARNATE CHRIST, NOT SIMPLY THE SPIRITUAL SON OF GOD…The new life we get in the new birth is the life of the historical Jesus. Therefore, if He does not rise from the dead, there is no new life to have”. END QUOTE.

    (If there is no regeneration before the historical, incarnate Son of God is resurrected, then the tenet “Total Depravity/Inability” as espoused by Calvinism is totally false.)

    Eph. 2:5 does not teach that a man merely receives “new” life in regeneration. The life we receive when we are “made alive together with” Jesus Christ” is eternal life. I can give you many verses which all teach that men receive eternal life after they place their trust in Christ. When you come to understand that we actually receive eternal life in regeneration, then it will become obvious to you that your position that regeneration can come a long time before a man is converted, is unbiblical. A man is not given eternal life a long time before he is converted.

    There is a second, very important point in Ephesians 2:5. When a person is “made alive together with” Jesus Christ, by grace they HAVE BEEN SAVED! Regeneration is not a preparatory work of God upon a man to bring him to conversion; regeneration is God’s saving work. Jesus coming to dwell in us, to give us eternal life in the new birth, saves us! The new birth is our salvation. Paul tells us that we are saved by the washing of regeneration (Titus 3:5). Elsewhere he states, “…saved by His life” (Rom. 5:10). Think how secure our salvation actually is— Jesus in us saves us, and, Jesus promises that He will never leave us or forsake us! This is a secure salvation that we can never lose or forfeit by what we, or any other person, or being does!

    Les, there are not three different kinds of life taught in the Bible. There are only two. There are two births, and there are two entirely different Greek words for “life”. One is for the life we are given when we are born in the flesh, and the other always references eternal life when it is used. Men receive eternal life in regeneration. A man is not given eternal life in order to believe. Jesus does not come to dwell in a man to make it so he can believe. God does not save a man to bring him to conversion. A man places his faith into Jesus Christ before Christ comes to dwell in his heart (Eph. 3:17); before a man receives eternal life; and before a man receives the gift of salvation; and by extension, before he is born again.

    It is interesting. None of the quotes that you gave to describe regeneration have anything to say about the risen Lord dwelling in us to give us eternal life. The Reformed notion of what happens in regeneration is nothing but a hodgepodge of various verses, or portions of verses, taken out of their contexts. I hope that this does not come across to you as too critical or harsh, I am just passionate about what God has done for us through His Son Jesus Christ.

    Co-laboring with you for the gospel,
    Mel

    • Les Prouty says:

      Mel,

      I received the notify of your response here. I will get to it as soon as I can. You’ve written a lot so a quick reply won’t work. And, I am incredibly swamped with everyday tasks related to my Haiti ministry and am leading a group next week (June 11) there. So maybe before then or maybe while flying. We’ll see.

      God bless,

      Les

    • John White says:

      Mel,

      Once again this post is out of order, sorry. It is in reply to your June 2 long post to Les.

      I liked it all, and especially this:

      “Think how secure our salvation actually is— Jesus in us saves us, and, Jesus promises that He will never leave us or forsake us! This is a secure salvation that we can never lose or forfeit by what we, or any other person, or being does!”

      A few questions: (I am still seeking to understand Calvinism, though the little I know I strongly disagree with.)

      (1) Do you think Calvinists teach security of their salvation?

      (2) Is the Calvinist belief system based on heavy legalism? (After all, if you begin to appear to fall away you’ll be branded by almost all of your closest dearest friends and respected elders as having never been saved.)

      • Mel Boek says:

        John,

        You asked: “(1) Do you think Calvinists teach security of their salvation?”

        In my opinion they THINK they do. The basic thought is, those whom God chose from the foundation of the world (the elect) shall all be saved. But, the question is, what is “salvation” from a Calvinist’s perspective? From a Calvinists perspective, is ‘salvation’ something that you receive when you are converted, or is it something that you receive after you persevere, at the end of your life? From a Calvinist’s perspective does a person receive eternal life at the moment of his conversion, or does it come after his perseverance?

        Consider these quotes from the Counter-Remonstrance (one of the first ‘statements of faith’ produced by a body of Calvinists to counter the Remonstrance), the Canons of Dort, and the Westminster Confession of Faith, all respected documents of faith for Calvinists.

        “ARTICLE 7- COUNTER-REMONSTRANCE
        “…that nevertheless the true believers find no excuse in this teaching to pursue carelessly the lusts of the flesh, since it is impossible that those who by a true faith are engrafted in to Christ should not produce the fruits of thankfulness; but on the contrary the more they assure themselves and feel that God works in them both to will and to do according to His good pleasure, the more they persist in working their own salvation with fear and trembling, since they know that THIS IS THE ONLY MEANS by which it pleases God to keep them standing and TO BRING THEM TO SALVATION.”

        “ARTICLE V, SECTION 9- CANONS OF DORT (this article concerns the perseverance of the saints)
        “Of this PERSEVERANCE OF THE ELECT TO SALVATION, and of their perseverance in the faith, true believers for themselves may and do obtain assurance according to the measure of their faith, whereby they arrive at the certain persuasion, that they ever will continue true and living members of the church; and that they experience forgiveness of sins and WILL AT LAST INHERIT ETERNAL LIFE.”

        “SECTION XVII, ARTICLE I – WESTMINSTER CONFESSION OF FAITH
        “They, whom God hath accepted in his Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, AND BE ETERNALLY SAVED.”

        If you look closely at the Reformed “Ordo Salutis” (Order of Salvation), you will see that salvation does not make the list, nor does eternal life. These founding Reformed documents indicate that these writers (and other Reformed writers that I have read) believed that men were saved and received eternal life after they persevered. So salvation wasn’t something that they could lose in their lifetime, rather, it was something that they hoped that they would receive.

        In my opinion, there are many obstacles to possessing “security of salvation” as a Calvinist. First you must be convinced that you really were regenerated, and that you really received the gift of “saving faith”. In Calvinism there are many “kinds of faith”—how do you really know if yours is “saving faith”?. As a Calvinist, how can you really know for sure that you were regenerated? How can you really know for sure that God is working in you both to will and to do His good pleasure? How can you really know for sure that you are persevering… or that you will be one of those who will actually persevere to the end? Since there are some that fall away near the end of their lives. There is no objective standard of measurement. What is to be measured to assess whether a person has been born again, or has “saving faith”, or is indeed persevering? It would seem that they have to measure these things by their ‘feelings’ or their ‘works’.

        I know that if I had to assess my eternal security on the basis of the activity of my life at various points in my Christian walk, or by how I felt, I would not have been ‘secure’. Why the more mature that we grow in our faith, the more we see the abundance of the subtle sins we may not have even recognized in our younger Christian years! Thankfully I know that when Christ came to live in my heart I received the new birth, God’s gift of eternal life, and salvation. I do not evaluate whether or not I was born again by my desires, thoughts, words or deeds. Why even Paul said that the test of whether or not we are in the faith is whether or not Christ is in me! (2Cor. 13:5).

  20. Ephesians 2:8-9 are the perfect biblical response to your article. “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.”

    Congratulations to all who made a choice to accept the grace of God. You will be able to do something in heaven that the Bible tells us no one can do and that is to boast of your choice for Christ. Seeing that there will be no boasting I would say that you need to cry out to God and repent of your pride. Ephesians 1:4 is true. God is the One that does all of the choosing!

    The only thing I can say after reading this article is “Glory to man in the highest!” That is what you are teaching here isn’t it?

    • sbcissues says:

      Well… well. How novel a comment.

      Let me ask you a question. did YOU or did YOU not repent? If you did not repent of your sins then can I tell you there is no reason to boast because no one will care that you did not repent.

      Now… if you DID repent then looks to me like you are in the same boat you say I am in. Repentance is a choice MEN make; now we can argue about who CAN repent and HOW they repent but repentance is a choice individuals make.

      • To reply I will first give you an extensive quote from Charles Spurgeon. In speaking of the verse in Acts 11:18 which states, “Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life” Spurgeon says, “By “Repentance unto life,” I think we are to understand that repentance which is accompanied by spiritual life in the soul, and ensures eternal life to every one who possesses it. “Repentance unto life,” I say, brings with it spiritual life, or rather, is the first consequent thereof. There are repentances which are not signs of life, except of natural life, because they are only effected by the power of the conscience and the voice of nature speaking in men; but the repentance here spoken of is produced by the Author of life, and when it comes, it begets such life in the soul, that he who was “dead in trespasses and sins,” is quickened together with Christ; he who had no spiritual susceptibilities, now “receives with meekness the engrafted word;” he who slumbered in the very center of corruption, receives power to become one of the sons of God, and to be near his throne. This I think is “repentance unto life,”—that which gives life unto a dead spirit. I have said also, this repentance ensures eternal life; for there are repentances of which you hear men speak which do not secure the salvation of the soul. Some preachers will affirm that men may repent, and may believe, and yet may fall away and perish. We will not consume our time by stopping to expose their error this morning; we have often considered it before, and have refuted all that they could say in defense of their dogma. Let us think of an infinitely better repentance. The repentance of our test is not their repentance, but it is a “repentance unto life;” a repentance which is a true sign of eternal salvation in Christ; a repentance which preserves us through this temporary state in Jesus, and which when we are passed into eternity, gives us a bliss which cannot be destroyed. “Repentance unto life “is the act of salvation of the soul, the germ which contains all the essentials of salvation, which secures them to us, and prepares us for them.”

        There is no repentance unto life apart from the movement of God on the soul of man. How can those that are dead in sin and as Romans 3:11 states, understand not the things of God, make a true repentance unto salvation? How? They cannot. This is why God must, as He did with Lazarus, awaken us from death to hear the voice of God and come forth unto salvation.

        Dead men cannot repent because they have heard the gospel and now believe that it is true. Only through the working of the Holy Spirit as they are hearing these words can they make even the slightest move toward repentance. Ephesians 2:8-9 are very clear that the grace, the faith, and the salvation are all gifts from God. If you are saved it is only because God, in His mercy, awakened you from the dead and gave you the faith to understand your desperate need for Him which caused you to repent and receive His gift of salvation.

        Why can’t we all just shout out in true gratitude, “Glory to God in the Highest!”? God’s word is very clear about these matters. Ephesians 1:4 tells us that God chose those who would be saved in Christ before the foundation of the world. Why is that such a problem for so many so-called believers? God did not have to choose even one! John 6:44 tells us that no one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws that person. Why is that such a problem for so many so-called believers? My security in Christ rests on the foundation that God saved me because of Jesus and His work alone and has absolutely nothing to do with my decision or choice or my understanding which enabled me to be wise enough to repent and receive this salvation. My salvation rests on Christ alone.

      • sbcissues says:

        Michael…

        I am confused.. You wrote… This is why God must, as He did with Lazarus, awaken us from death to hear the voice of God and come forth unto salvation.

        Then you wrote… Only through the working of the Holy Spirit as they are hearing these words can they make even the slightest move toward repentance.

        Which is it… regeneration that is by God’s efficacious call OR man’s repentance is a response to the working of the Holy Spirit through the proclamation of the gospel?

        It cannot be both. For the record MY Salvation rests on Christ alone… but you make a critical mistake in the following statement; My security in Christ rests on the foundation that God saved me because of Jesus and His work alone and has absolutely nothing to do with my decision or choice or my understanding which enabled me to be wise enough to repent and receive this salvation.

        If you have not repented then you are not saved. You were not saved until you DID repent. Your whole tirade is I am afraid horribly lacking.

    • Mel Boek says:

      Micheal,
      When in history did Jesus Christ begin to dwell in the hearts of men (“Christ dwells in our hearts through faith” -Eph. 3:17; “Christ lives in me” – Gal. 2:20; “Christ in me” –Rom. 8:10; “Christ in you” –Col. 1:27; “His Son in me”—Gal. 1:16)?

      When in history did men become “holy temples of God”?

      Are you aware that there is a whole new work of Jesus Christ upon men and in men after the resurrection?

      • sbcissues says:

        Mel,

        One of the arguments I make against this notion of regeneration preceding repentance deals with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. I do not believe it is Scripturally accurate to say that God imparts new life to ANYONE apart from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit; so if the calvinist position on regeneration preceding repentance is correct, that would place the indwelling prior to repentance which simply does not wash.

        The whole position of regeneration prior to repentance and believing faith is poor theology.

      • Mel Boek says:

        Bob,
        I agree, however… some time ago, I did a study on “life” in the Scriptures, and that was when had to conclude that there were only 2 kinds of “life” in the Scriptures. In addition I realized that Jesus Christ dwelling in us was our source of eternal life. An overwhelming number of verses tied “life” together with Jesus Christ. We find that “Christ is our life” and that only those who have the “Son” have the life, and those who do not have the “Son of God” do not have the life given in regeneration, etc… When we focus on Jesus Christ dwelling in us, then it is easier to pinpoint the historical event which marks the time when God began sending His Son to dwell in men’s hearts.

        The simple fact is: there was no regeneration before the resurrection. Jesus Christ was the first-born from the dead (Col. 1:18; Rev. 1:5)). For a time Jesus was the ONLY BEGOTTEN SON OF GOD (John 1:14, 18, 3:16, 18; 1John 4:9). Other men were not born again until the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2). On that day Jesus Christ became the “first-born of many brethren” (Heb. 2:11; Rom. 8:29) as other men were “begotten of God” (1John 5:18; John 1:13). On Pentecost the first men were baptized into Christ (Rom. 6:3) (not water baptism), baptized into His Body (1Cor. 12:13). This resulted in the birth of the church as men became members of The Body of Christ (1Cor. 12; Eph. 5:30). In addition, these men were made into holy temples of God (1Cor. 3:17, 6:19), and Jesus came to dwell in them. They were also joined to Christ to become one spirit with Him (1Cor. 6:17). These men were not just “made alive with Christ” or regenerated. First they were baptized into Christ’s death (Rom. 6:3, 4…) where they were “crucified together with Christ”, “dead together with Christ” and “buried together with Christ in baptism”. They were made to die with Christ before they were made alive together with Christ. Thus these men were both born out of the dead, and they were born as new babes in Christ, as they were born again through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1Pet. 1:3).

        From this perspective it is easy to see which comes first, faith or regeneration! Men had faith for over two thousand years before there even was regeneration! If men could have faith without being regenerated, then there is no issue of whether men could have faith and repentance prior to begin regenerated!

        Calvinism totally redefines or re-forms the work of God in regeneration. Regeneration in Calvinism is not dependent upon Jesus Christ rising from the dead, and it has nothing with the eternal life the indwelling Christ gives to men. The whole Calvinistic system of theology operates on a faulty definition/description of regeneration.

        Once the Biblical fact is established that there was no regeneration before the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, then this one fact can be used to prove Calvinists have erroneously interpreted many Scriptures, such as those which they use to establish their description of regeneration and ‘total inability’. Many of their interpretations require the notion that God was giving some sort of ‘life’ to men long before Jesus began giving men God’s free gift of eternal life.

        Mel

  21. John White says:

    Mel,
    I like what you said. It may sound different to many but I believe it. In light of what you wrote, when would you say the “New Testament” began?

  22. Mel Boek says:

    John,
    When did the New Testament begin? (see below-THE ANSWER TO YOUR QUESTION)

    First let me give some important Biblical facts that help to frame my perspective.

    Before there was an Old or a New Testament there was a promise given to Abraham and his Seed, which is Christ (Gal. 3:16). This promise to Abraham was like a “last will and testament”, a promised inheritance. (“For if the INHERITANCE be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by a promise” – Gal. 3:18). What is interesting to me is that the one who makes a promise in this way must die before there will be an inheritance to receive. (“For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant…For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it. For a covenant is valid only when men are dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives” (Heb. 9:15-17). God made the promise…imagine, the eternal God dying…

    What was the promise? I think that God made this promise with Abraham in Genesis 15:1 “I am thy shield, thy very great reward”. Romans 8:17 says that we are “heirs of God”. Wow, what an amazing inheritance! (There is more, but I am trying to keep it ‘shorter’.)

    After the promise was given, God gave the Law—the Old Covenant. One very important reason that the Law was given is found in Heb. 7:12, “For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of the Law also.” God was changing the priesthood from the Melchizedek to the Aaronic (a small segment of the tribe of Levi) for a special purpose. However, in this Covenant we find an inferior priesthood, (these priests die–Heb. 7:23), they couldn’t save men (Heb. 7:25), the sacrifices in this Covenant are inferior, they cannot take away sins (Heb. 10:4), and the Law could not give life (Gal. 3:21). For these reasons and more the Law was “weak and useless” (Heb. 7:18). However there were some important purposes for the Law (Old Covenant). It was a shadow of the good things to come (Heb. 10:1), and it possessed elements that were “copies” of the things in the heavenly … things that help us understand what takes place in/under the New Covenant. And the Law is our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ (Gal. 3:24). BUT, remember, under the Old Covenant or Law, only priests could ‘draw near’ to God, and only the High Priest had extremely limited access to the presence of God in the earthly tabernacle (Holy of Holies). And as long as the veil hung in the earthly copy, no man entered God’s presence in heaven (Heb. 9:8). Access ‘near to’ or into the presence of God was restricted from all other men, and a veil separated the priests from God’s earthly dwelling place in the holy of holies.

    Before the Law, there was a priest named Melchizedek. Later, under the Law there was a multitude of priests. Yet the Bible says that there was a need for ANOTHER priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek (Heb. 7:11, 15), one which had the power of an indestructible life (Heb. 7:16). The qualification for this new priest is a life that will never end. Some people think that Jesus was High Priest while He was on earth, and while He was dying on the cross. But that does not fit the teaching of the Scriptures. We know that He was born under the Law (Gal. 4:4), and under the Law only some Levites qualified to be priests. Christ was of the tribe of Judah, from which no one became a priest. Heb. 8:4 states, “Now if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law, who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things…” Also, Christ was going to die, and priests cease being priests upon death. Yet, the God of the universe took on a form that could die, and so release the inheritance! A life that can die is not an indestructible life—therefore Christ did not qualify to be a priest after the order of Melchizedek before His death. But, after He died He obtained a life that can never die again. Therefore Jesus could say, “I am the first and the last, and the Living One; and I WAS DEAD, and behold, I AM ALIVE FOREVERMORE” (Rev. 1:17-18). And, “Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more!” (Rom. 6:9). It was when He was begotten from the dead that God the Father said to Him, “Thou art My Son, today I have begotten Thee, Thou art a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (Heb. 5:5); and “Thou art a priest forever” (Heb. 7:21). Jesus became the guarantee of a better Covenant (Heb. 7:22), and “because He abides forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Hence also, He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him” (Heb. 7:25). It is the risen Lord who becomes High Priest, and as High Priest Jesus Christ saves men through His sacrificial death on the cross. He saves them when He cleanses them and makes them into a Holy Temple and comes to dwell in their hearts, thereby giving them eternal life in the new birth.

    THE ANSWER TO YOUR QUESTION
    The New Covenant was inaugurated with the shedding of Christ’s blood and His death. The one who made the promises died, so now the inheritance can be received. Jesus said, “This cup is the New Testament in My blood, which is shed for you” (Matt. 26:28; Mk 14:24; Luke 22:20). And, God “brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep THROUGH THE BLOOD of the eternal covenant” (Heb. 13:20). The promise had been made to Abraham and His Seed, and when Christ died, the inheritance was now available for the heir(s). Jesus, the only Son of God at His death, was His heir.

    No other man was qualified to receive the inheritance when Christ died. For all men are born slaves. And if they are slaves, they do not qualify to be an heir (Gal. 4:7). They need to be given the right to become a son by adoption before they qualify to share in the inheritance. That is one of the reasons that God sent His Son, so that men could receive the adoption as sons (Gal. 4:4-5). What is the promise, the inheritance that Christ made available to ‘sons’?
    God Himself (Gen. 15:1; Rom.8:17)
    The promise of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 3:14; Acts 2:33, 38-39; Eph. 1:13; etc…)
    Life (1John 2:25; 1Tim. 4:8; 2Tim. 1:1; etc…)
    The Kingdom of God (1Cor. 6:9-10, 15:50; Gal. 5:21)

    The important question is, “How are men, who are born slaves of sin (therefore not a son), bound to the Law for life, in a ‘garment’ of flesh and blood (which will not inherit the kingdom of God), get the right to become a son of God by adoption, so that they can become ‘co-heirs’ and receive the promised inheritance (which results in the new birth)?”

    That was probably too long of a response, but the detail adds more weight to the fact that there was no new birth for men prior to the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

    • Michael Nathan says:

      Mel I was blessed to read your comments above. I was unsure though of your answer to your question. You stated, “The important question is, “How are men, who are born slaves of sin (therefore not a son), bound to the Law for life, in a ‘garment’ of flesh and blood (which will not inherit the kingdom of God), get the right to become a son of God by adoption, so that they can become ‘co-heirs’ and receive the promised inheritance (which results in the new birth)?” Perhaps I missed something but in reading your comments I never saw your answer to that question. Can you respond and give me your understanding of how the new birth occurs in one’s life?

      • Mel Boek says:

        Micheal,

        Thank you for your question. First let me ask you, three questions. Two thousand years after the death of Christ:
        1. Do you agree that every man is still born a slave of sin? And as a slave he does not qualify to receive the inheritance?
        2. Do you agree that every man is born with flesh and blood; he lives in a “tent” of sin stained (defiled) flesh? And flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God (1Cor. 15:50)! (In contrast, God sent His own Son in “the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rom. 8:3); Jesus was the spotless, undefiled Lamb of God (Heb. 7:26).
        (In the Reformed Theology “seeing” and “entering the Kingdom of God” equals the ‘new birth. How is one to inherit the kingdom, see or enter it, while they are still a creature of flesh and blood?)
        3. Do you agree that the Law has dominion over a man as long as he lives (Rom. 7:1)? And in that condition he can’t be joined to Christ (Rom. 7:4)? (In other words Paul relates a man’s relationship to the Law, to the relationship between a woman and her husband. A man is born bound to the law in the same way that a woman is bound to her husband. As long as her husband lives, (by God’s original design*) she is not free to be joined to another man, and the woman is not loosed from her husband until he dies. In the same way, we can’t be joined to Christ while we are bound to the Law, and we are bound to the Law as long as we live.) (*the marriage of a man and woman, and their “one flesh” union was to express the design and permanency of the relationship between Christ and His Church, as He becomes “one Spirit” with them— Eph. 5:30; 1Cor. 6:17.)

        Before I write out an answer, look at Romans 6 (with Col. 2:11) and Romans 7:1-6, and tell me your understanding of what is done to the man to free him from slavery to sin, deal with his flesh, and set him free from the Law so that he is free to be joined to Christ.

    • John White says:

      Mel, I wholeheartedly agree with you. Does this not place the gospels, at least the larger part of each gospel, in the old testament. (Remember how Jesus told the leper to go show himself to the priest in the gospels. A practice not mentioned elsewhere in the new testament.
      I’m not being trivial. In this thread of comments, way back up the page, Les, (a good guy in my mind though in error) quoted John Murray

      “It has often been said that we are passive in regeneration. This is a true and proper statement. For it is simply the precipitate of what our Lord has taught here [John 3]. We may not like it. We may recoil against it. It may not fit into our way of thinking and it may not accord with the time-worn expressions which are the coin of our evangelism. But if we recoil against what shall we answer when we appear before him whose truth we rejected and with whose gospel we tampered? But blessed be God that the gospel of Christ is one of sovereign, efficacious, irresistible regeneration. If it were not the case that in regeneration we are passive, the subjects of an action of which God alone is the agent, there would be no gospel at all. For unless God by sovereign, operative grace had turned our enmity to love and our disbelief to faith we would never yield the response of faith and love.”

      I assume that since Les quoted this that this is a GC (good Calvinist) position. But we look at the real new testamnent, after the shedding of blood we have several instances of regeneration that do not support this passivity.

      (1) The three thousand saved on the day of Pentacost where “pricked in their heart” before being saved. God was drawing those lost souls and just as in Gen.1:2, God moved on the face of the deep and things began to change. (Those verses are an excellent picture of a lost man being drawn and an awakened soul beginning to see the light.) “Then they that GLADLY received his, (Peter’s), word were baptized. I see no passivity there.
      (2) Verse 47, “… having favor with all the people … added daily such as should be saved.” The early converts were affected by the Christians, not passively uninterested observers.
      (3) Acts 3, if you assume that the lame man latter was regenerated then was he passive when leaping and praising God?
      (4) Acts 4. Why did the Holy Spirit guide Peter to preach the way he did? Look at 3:26, “… sent him to bless you, in turning away EVERY ONE OF YOU from his iniquities.” 4:4, “But many who heard the word believed …” Notice it was many not all. Perhaps those not believing were the ones being passive.
      (5) The Ethiopian eunuch was the one who saw the water and asked to be baptized. Why, because he was falling asleep during Philip’s discussion of Isa.? No, but because he was moved by the Holy Spirit. He was drawn by the Father.

      These are just four, there are many others. I do not believe the scriptures give place to this passive regeneration. John Murray was a wonderful devout man of God, but he erred. Many a good man, sadly, has been drawn in to Calvinism. I was also but as I continued to study it just was not a biblical belief system. Some GC’s may be offened by what follows, but I believe John Murray is happy that someone is opposing his once held views.

      God’s grace is stronger than my sin, and though I indeed was an enemy of God, His grace was capable of penetrating my unbelief. He got through to me, and likewise has He gotten through to every saint ever saved. Praise be His name. But God does not and will not act totally apart from your will. If you insist on meat you’ll get meat till it comes out your nose. If a man, even an enlightened man, insists on not believing, then God will give him over to unbelief.

      • Mel Boek says:

        John,

        You stated:
        “I assume that since Les quoted this that this is a GC (good Calvinist) position. But we look at the real new testament, after the shedding of blood we have several instances of regeneration that do not support this passivity.”

        I’m curious. Are you saying that a man plays a role in his regeneration (i.e. he is not passive in regeneration)? If so, what is his part in regeneration, and what is God’s part in regeneration—in your understanding?

        Or are you merely saying that a man places his trust in Christ (conversion- faith and repentance) before God regenerates him?

  23. John White says:

    Mel,

    The reply above was to your answer about when the new testament began.

  24. John White says:

    In response to your post on June 16:

    Mel,

    You asked, “I’m curious. Are you saying that a man plays a role in his regeneration (i.e. he is
    not passive in regeneration)? If so, what is his part in regeneration, and what is God’s part in regeneration—in your understanding?

    Or are you merely saying that a man places his trust in Christ (conversion- faith and repentance) before God regenerates him?”

    The few examples I gave, show the work of the Holy Spirit in men before their salvation. Men in this pre-salvation state are what some have called “an awakened soul.” I am not saying that they will all be saved but it is evidence of the Father’s drawing work on their hearts. Ultimately there must be in those men’s hearts, a full acceptance of what they have heard and a complete surrender to the One whose voice they have been hearing. I believe that this awakened state is often accompanied by very real honest heart felt questions and a genuine hunger for the things of Go . Those men are responding to the Holy Spirit’s work in their hearts, and as such are not passive.
    I believe that man was created by God with the ability to respond to his creator. Some men respond by dismissing the message quickly and continually; others respond with an ever increasing openness of heart toward the message and quickly are regenerated; others respond slowly and after a time eventually come to be born again; and still others respond with openness quickly but over time they turn away from the words of life they heard. The bible from cover to cover is filled with the admonition to man to respond appropriately to God. “He who has ears to hear let him hear.” We are not pre-programmed to respond in a certain way. Our will, our choice comes in to play. I admit that it is a great mystery and I do not claim to fully understand it, but to deny the responsibility of man completely is to make God the author of all sin.
    Now I will quickly admit that I may have misunderstood what John Murray meant when he said “passive”. To me he was saying that men in full rebellion to God, as were we all, just wake up one day saved, having never considered or wrestled with or having been affected by God’s drawing calling message. I do not believe that happens.
    Let me add a word about the term “surrender”. I know that there are some very saved and devout men of God who are products of a wonderful seminary who reject the notion of surrender as occurring at the new birth. As much as I respect these brothers, I still disagree. Many people view maturity in Christ as moving on and away from that initial moment of salvation into the deeper things of God. I think maturity is more involved with going back to the child like faith and full surrender that was in your heart the day you were regenerated, and, by the way, the absence of that fully surrendered heart attitude in today’s church is one of the top three reasons the church is in the shape it is in.

    May God continue to bless your ministry,

    John

    • Mel Boek says:

      John,
      I am confused by some of the things that you say. In one part of your post you write,

      “I believe that man was created by God with the ability to respond to his creator.” Yet in another place you say, “Men in this pre-salvation state are what some have called ‘an awakened soul’…. this awakened state is often accompanied by very real honest heart felt questions and a genuine hunger for the things of God.”

      What do you mean by an ‘awakened soul’? ‘Awakened from what? –what was the man’s state of his soul before it was ‘awakened’? Also, do all men possess an ‘awakened soul’, or do they have a need to have their soul ‘awakened’? And if God needs to ‘awaken a man’s soul’, then whose soul does He awake? Please support your view from the scriptures.

      Also would you tell me your understanding of what occurs when a man is regenerated (born again)? (You wrote, “… others respond with an ever increasing openness of heart toward the message and QUICKLY ARE REGENERATED; others respond slowly and AFTER A TIME EVENTUALLY COME TO BE BORN AGAIN…)

      You also stated, “Now I will quickly admit that I may have misunderstood what John Murray meant when he said ‘passive’. To me he was saying that men in full rebellion to God…”

      Actually, John Murray teaches that a man is not merely ‘in full rebellion’, rather a man’s condition before regeneration is DEAD to everything spiritual (Calvinists have a specific definition of what it means to be ‘spiritually dead’). A man has no capacity to respond to spiritual things at all: he cannot perceive spiritual truth, he cannot understand it, he can have no desire for it, nor does he have the freedom of will to choose it, and he lacks the needed kind of faith (‘saving faith’ or ‘justifying faith’). In this condition man can make no God-ward move whatsoever. He’s dead, like Lazarus in the grave, and until God calls him forth (as Jesus called forth Lazarus) and gives him new spiritual life, which includes a radical transformation giving him spiritual perception and understanding, a new heart with which to desire spiritual things, and sets his will free and gives him the gift of saving faith, he will forever remain “passive”, unable to respond to the things of God. For a Calvinist this is the work of God in the new birth. Man is entirely passive in regeneration, just as Lazarus was in the grave. Jesus had to call him forth and gave him ‘life’ first, before Lazarus could make any response. For a Calvinist a man can’t even have faith unless he was first born again. In my opinion, this is bad theology, based upon false presuppositions and erroneous interpretations of the Word of God. In addition Calvinists utilize an unbiblical notion of what the work of God is in regeneration.

      In my opinion, this false view keeps men occupied dueling over the views of ‘passivity’ (bondage of the will) and ‘ability’ (freedom of the will), instead of proclaiming the simple Biblical truth that refutes the false claims of the Calvinists.

      I wrote more, but it got a little long. So if you want my understanding, I have it written. Otherwise, I would be really interested in your understanding on the above questions.

      Mel

      • sbcissues says:

        Mel…

        I believe man is created by God with the capacity to respond to Him. I do not believe man is totally depraved to the extent that he cannot respond to God’s initiative unless or until he is regenerated or brought to new life so that he may THEN repent and respond to God.

        I would argue that man MUST be convicted of his sin as he is confronted with the claims in the Word and the inner workings of the Holy Spirit before he can truly repent and be saved.

        God’s initiative is revelation and reconciliation and our response is repentance if we are to be saved.

      • John White says:

        In response to your post on June 25:

        Mel,

        A few qualifiers. I have never been formally trained, (seminary), in the theology. I’ve spent most of my life seeking a clearer understanding of the things of God, but I do not claim to have arrived. I will sometimes use a word incorrectly but I hope you can get the idea. I am seeking also to understand Calvinism more correctly. I hope to someday be a tiny part of a coming together of our camps. (Things right now do not look promising along that line.)

        The term, “awakened soul” I got from Mj. Ian Thomas. I assumed it was a fairly common phrase. I mean by that phrase that a lost man has been exposed to the bible, the gospel, and has begun to seriously think about and question the things he is hearing. He is in some way drawn to the message but he is not yet saved.

        If we look at regeneration in the way you described in an earlier post, then the disciples, not just the 12, were not regenerated until the Day of Pentecost. When Jesus taught them especially when He did so after the resurrection they were awakened souls. Cornelius was an awakened soul but not saved, regenerated, until Peter came to his house. The Philippian jailer was both literally awakened and spiritually awakened, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” At the precise time of his question he did not as yet have Christ in him, but God sure had his attention. He was saved possibly moments later and his house was also saved shortly thereafter. During the time when Paul was explaining the gospel to the jailer’s family they were awakened souls. In my view every new testament saint went through a short or more lengthy time of being an awakened soul before they received Christ as their Lord and Savior.

        I went through a false conversion experience at a camp when I was ten, and I wrestled with God’s call for some time thereafter, but at 16 I was saved, born again, converted, regenerated, raised from the dead, seated in the heavens, delivered from the power of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of His dear Son. To me it all happened in a moment as I repented and received Jesus into my life. In my view, in the days or months before my conversion I was an awakened soul.

        You asked, ……………. “What do you mean by an ‘awakened soul’? ‘Awakened from what? –what was the man’s state of his soul before it was ‘awakened’? Also, do all men possess an ‘awakened soul’, or do they have a need to have their soul ‘awakened’? And if God needs to ‘awaken a man’s soul’, then whose soul does He awake? Please support your view from the scriptures.”

        The term, “awakened soul” is not in the bible. The best I can do to support it from the scriptures is John 6:44, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him …..” The Calvinists would of course say that God only draws the elect, but I, as a loyal NC, would say that God calls many. Matthew 22:14, “For many are called, but few are chosen.” In that parable the servants had gone out into the highways to invite all
        they could find. Those that came obviously responded favorably to the God’s call, during the inviting process I would say they were awakened souls and all but one of them came clothed properly. In general I believe God calls all men everywhere to be saved. Most do not respond favorably. The 3000 men listening to Peter’s Pentecostal sermon were awakened souls and as the message continued were “pricked in their heart” and then born again. To be more specific, I think John 6:44 is speaking not so much of the general call to all men, but to the work of the Holy Spirit in revealing the things of God to one who has at least in some way begun to respond to that part of the message he has heard so far.

        I hope these words help a little. I really enjoy talking to all you guys, even Les. Thanks for letting the untrained participate.

        May God bring us all, (me included), to the truth and thus be set free,

        John

      • Michael Nathan says:

        John, I read with much interest your post above. Major Ian Thomas has been used mightily by God in my understanding of salvation. I just had a question for you. You stated, “To be more specific, I think John 6:44 is speaking not so much of the general call to all men, but to the work of the Holy Spirit in revealing the things of God to one who has at least in some way begun to respond to that part of the message he has heard so far.”

        John 6:44 reads, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” This verse is very clear that unless God the Father does something that person cannot come to Jesus. The word unless reveals that something must be done by God or that person will not come. It does not mean that in some way they have begun to respond. This verse is very clear that it has nothing to do with the person’s response but everything to do with God the Father’s choice to draw that person. Can you see that?

      • sbcissues says:

        Michael,

        You quote John 6:44 and then force a meaning on the text that the text itself does not support. You wrote, “This verse is very clear that unless God the Father does something that person cannot come to Jesus.” I and John, I believe, will agree. Apart from revelation and reconciliation both of which are God’s initiatives, no one would be saved. I believe we agree at this point.

        You THEN write, “It does not mean that in some way they have begun to respond. This verse is very clear that it has nothing to do with the person’s response but everything to do with God the Father’s choice to draw that person. Can you see that?”

        I agree again with the first statement, that the text does not mean that “in some way they have begun to respond.” Jesus simply acknowledged that No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. That is ALL the text says. It does not say ANYTHING about the individual who has been drawn’s response! I simply says that no one can come unless the Father FIRST draws him.

        Your final statement about God’s choice in the drawing is really without merit IF you connect draw with “that person”. You are I think inserting irresistible grace and effectual calling into the text and that is completely without merit in my opinion. Jesus does not say that. He simply says all who come are drawn; do all who are drawn respond with repentance? The text does not answer that question as you are insinuating.

        I am afraid your theology is errantly driving your interpretation of this text.

    • sbcissues says:

      John…. I agree wholeheartedly with the following statement:

      I believe that man was created by God with the ability to respond to his creator. Some men respond by dismissing the message quickly and continually; others respond with an ever increasing openness of heart toward the message and quickly are regenerated; others respond slowly and after a time eventually come to be born again; and still others respond with openness quickly but over time they turn away from the words of life they heard.

  25. Mel Boek says:

    In response to your post on June 27:

    John,
    I have never heard the phrase “awakened soul”. The phrase seemed as if it might be some sort of “modified Calvinism”, hence my questions. As far as I know, the only reason the ‘spiritual capacity’ of the unsaved (unregenerate) men is debated among evangelical Christians is because of the teaching of Calvinism. The Bible does not teach that men need God to do something to them, or in them, before they will have spiritual awareness, spiritual understanding, or spiritual desire.

    I agree with both you and Bob: “man is created by God with the capacity to respond to Him.” Paul tells us “that which is known about God is evident within them; for God make it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, HAVE BEEN CLEARLY SEEN, BEING UNDERSTOOD THROUGH WHAT HAS BEEN MADE, so they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:19-20). Unfortunately there are some who suppress this obvious truth (Rom. 1:18). These are men that the Bible calls “fools.” Men who become fools have a predictable downward decline—“for even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools.” (Rom. 1:21-22). (This is much different from the Calvinist teaching of the “spiritually dead”.)

    David gives us an additional description of a fool. “A fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” (Ps. 14:1 and 53:1). When a man comes to the point where he believes there is no God (in spite of the abundance of evidence the Lord has built into His creation), then he will not believe anything revealed by God. In the OT those who believed God, God reckoned them righteous. If we look at a group of fools, there is no faith, no believing God, and “therefore there is none righteous, not even one” (Rom. 3:10). In addition we are told, “without faith it is impossible to please Him…” (Heb. 11:6). Fools lack the necessary faith, therefore among fools “there is no one who does good” (Ps. 14:1, 3, 53:1; Rom. 3:12). Fools who do not believe that there is a God will not seek after God (Rom. 3:11; Ps. 14:2, 53:2), or fear God (Rom. 3:18). Calvinist’s make false assumptions regarding Romans 3:10-18. They teach that this passage describes those who have not been regenerated. This teaching is wrong. Men like Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David and Daniel were not regenerated in their lifetime on earth (they had not been indwelt by the Son of God, thereby receiving eternal life in regeneration when they walked this earth). Romans 3:10-18 certainly does not describe these unregenerate men.

    In addition to the revelation through creation, God gave men special revelation. However there was one very important fact that God kept hidden from past ages and generations. For a long time it was a mystery, but now it has been manifested to His saints because God willed to make it known. Simply put the mystery that was made manifest was, “CHRIST IN YOU, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:26-27). As I have said many times, Jesus Christ coming to dwell in me, regenerates me, gives me eternal life and saves me. And this salvation is available to anyone who will call upon His name. Paul declares, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Rom. 10:13). Now for my Calvinist friends we must make note that Paul does not teach that regeneration is a necessity before someone will call upon the name of the Lord. Paul tells us what is needed. “How then shall they call on him whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent?” (Rom. 10:14-15). For a person to be saved, we first need a person who will preach the gospel. (The gospel is like seed—it does not produce a crop the day it is planted). When a person believes the message of the gospel and places his trust into Christ, then Christ does the most awesome work upon that man, and in that man! This work of Christ culminates with Jesus coming to live inside of him thereby regenerating and saving him.

    In contrast, Calvinists have been led to believe that God must do an extensive work on an individual before he will be able to believe. In their systematic theology, nothing of any consequence happens to the man after he is converted. (God merely counts him as though he is righteous (their view of justification) and he is adopted (neither is a work upon the man, or in the man). From that point a man strives to become holy by the things that he does.) Because of this false teaching, they do not see the abundance of Scripture that details the work of Christ in and upon an individual after he has placed his faith into Jesus Christ.

    In Christ,
    Mel

    • Michael Nathan says:

      Mel, I was once a devout believer in man’s free will ability and in God giving the choice to believe or not to believe to men that the Bible states are DEAD in trespasses in sins and also are unable to come unless God draws them, let alone without any desire to seek after God. Since God has opened my eyes to the doctrines of His grace I now see things completely different.

      I have read many words against what you and others call Calvinism but what you stated above is new to me. You said, “In their systematic theology, nothing of any consequence happens to the man after he is converted. (God merely counts him as though he is righteous (their view of justification) and he is adopted (neither is a work upon the man, or in the man). From that point a man strives to become holy by the things that he does.) Because of this false teaching, they do not see the abundance of Scripture that details the work of Christ in and upon an individual after he has placed his faith into Jesus Christ.”

      Where do you get such ideas? If any theology teaches radical change in a human being after salvation it is Calvinism. All glory goes to Jesus for imputing His righteousness to the account of wretched hell-deserving sinners. All glory goes to God for adopting the sinner into His family through the finished work of Christ. No theology teaches a greater understanding of God’s grace in sanctification and reveals the fact that God preserves the truly saved sinner and that it is only through the righteousness and holiness of Christ Himself that the saved sinner can persevere in the ways of God.

      Most of what I see here at this site are posts from people who have absolutely no idea of what a true Calvinist actually believes. There is nothing more God-honoring than the truth of the doctrines of grace. I thank God daily for revealing His truth to me.

      • sbcissues says:

        Michael,

        I agree with you on this one… I am not familiar with Mel’s position as he stated it with respect to the calvinist once he is saved.

        I will take issue at your statement, “Most of what I see here at this site are posts from people who have absolutely no idea of what a true Calvinist actually believes.”

        I clearly understand the implications of the doctrines of grace… and disagree with most of those implications at least when taken to the extremes that the calvinist takes them. I would argue you got this “truth” everywhere but from the Word of God for the Scriptures do not lead ANYONE to the DOG.

      • Mel Boek says:

        Michael,

        Thank you for your reply to this post. I will make the time to respond later.

        I am glad you are still monitoring this blog. Earlier this month we had some interaction, and each time I left you with a couple of questions that you never took time to answer. Would you answer these questions? They are pretty easy and straight forward.

        First set of questions from June 5th:

        1. When in history did Jesus Christ begin to dwell in the hearts of men (“Christ dwells in our hearts through faith” -Eph. 3:17; “Christ lives in me” – Gal. 2:20; “Christ in me” –Rom. 8:10; “Christ in you” –Col. 1:27; “His Son in me”—Gal. 1:16)?
        Similarly,
        2. When in history did men first become “holy temples of God” (a dwelling place of the holy God- 1Cor. 3:16-17, 6:19, 2Cor. 6:16)?

        As Paul writes in one place: ”…for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (2 Cor 6:16)

        There was a second set of questions from June 12th, but they were a little more challenging. So I won’t include them here. But I genuinely was interested in understanding your perspective on those questions as well.

      • John White says:

        Michael,

        I am so sorry that I have not responded sooner to you post of June 28. It’s like you wrote me a letter and I failed to respond at all. I just now saw your post. I’m glad to meet another brother who is appreciative of Mj. Thomas.

        As to what I said about Jn. 6:44, I would agree with Bob’s post that followed yours. Some context: Mel and I were discussing a non-biblical term that I first heard from Mj. Thomas, an awakened soul. There is of course no perfect “defense” for non-biblical terms, but I think we all use such terms from time to time. I the old days I would hear pastors speak of a man who had recently begun to attend the church and who was asking a lot of good heart felt questions about salvation, and the pastors would say, “It seems that Jim Bob is really under conviction.” (Another non-biblical term.) In my view of things there is a time period that precedes salvation. It may be a short time or a much longer time, but there is a drawing of the Father that often times a man of God can discern or “see” is in progress. I am not on a crusade to get other people to use my “down home” vernacular, I was just expressing my view of things in my own way.

        I think that the issue that relates to this thread is the idea of men responding to God’s call. I also believe that a man’s response is often times progressive. When you respond to the light God gives you, He gives you more light. The context of Jn. 6:44 relates to men who are not responding with openness to Jesus’ words. Unbelief was everywhere, yet Jesus continued to speak. Perhaps some of those men were among the 3000 saved at Pentecost.

        Again, please forgive my oversight,

        John

  26. Michael Nathan says:

    Mel: I will do my best to get back with you shortly on those answers. Like you I have much going on in my life but being a part of this thread of comments is very important to me.

    • John White says:

      Michael,
      Although I have significant issues with Reformed theology, I also understand that not everything I hear under the Calvinist label is actual Calvinist belief. So to help me understand real Calvinism, could you answer a question or two for me after you answer Mel’s questions?

      (1) Based on what Calvinism has done for you, do you personally feel that you have rock solid assurance of your salvation? (I have heard different things on this issue. I would like to know your own heart felt feelings on this question.)

      (2) If someone in your church gave every indication of being in the elect for many years, and walked closely with you in the things of God and the teachings of grace, and then fell away to the point where your church had to “excommunicate” him, would you personally still consider him your brother in Christ? (Would you seek to restore him?)

      Thanks and God bless you,

      John

  27. Michael Nathan says:

    To those that have left questions for me I must apologize for my lack of response. I go through this kind of thing at many websites where the theology tends toward man’s ability to respond to the calling of God. As a Jewish believer I also spend a lot of time at the Jerusalem Post web site leaving comments. Then there’s Amazon.com and other places. It starts to take a toll on me and I find myself feeling much frustration in my efforts to answer all of the questions that come at me.

    At JPost.com I am attempting to help my brethren according to the flesh understand that their Messiah has come and He is the one that is now protecting them. Most do not want to hear this. At Amazon.com, through their book reviews section, I attempt to help atheists, health and wealth gospel believers, evolutionists and others to understand that our God reigns over all and that He is gracious and good in every way and truly worthy of all praise. Most do not want to hear this. At this site I have attempted to tell fellow believers that our God is completely sovereign in salvation and that if it was not for the fact that before the foundations of the world He had elected certain people to salvation then absolutely none would be saved. Most did not want to hear that either.

    I am sorry that I have not answered all of the questions that were asked. My posts above are very clear as to where I stand. For all of eternity I will thank the One who has done it all in my salvation. I will boast of nothing else. I made no choice or decision to receive Him. The faith, the ability to repent and most of all the grace which God gave in choosing a wretch like me have their origin completely in God alone. Glory to God in the Highest!

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