John 1:12, Regeneration and Adoption
A visitor named Rey was reading an essay on Monergism.com and sent the following:
You say "Monergism is the biblical doctrine that regeneration (the new birth) both precedes and elicits faith in Christ"
Excuse me, my friend, but have you ever read John 1:12? I don't think you have.
John 1:12 "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,"
It is clear that belief comes first, THEN they receive the right to become children of God. He gave the right to become children of God to those who believe. He did not make those who are already children of God believe. You have reversed the passage. But not only that! He only gave the right to become children of God to those that believe. He did not actually make them children of God yet. He gave them the right, or as the KJV says, "the power." Now, where or when is this "right" or "power" utilized?
Galatians 3:25-27 "But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor, because you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, because all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ."
The right that he gave to all who believe is uses when they submit to believers baptism. To all who believe he gave the right or power to become sons of God. And this right or power they used in baptism, for which purpose Paul says we are sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus (because that's when we received the right to be regenerated or reborn) because we were baptized (because that's when we actually used the right to be reborn and were then born "of water and of the Spirit"). Of water because we were dunked in water in the name of the Trinity, and of the Spirit because we received the Holy Spirit inside believers' baptism, as Peter says in Acts 2:38 "Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
Thanks for your email. I actually agree with you that one must believe the gospel to be justified and an adopted child of God. You do well in pointing out the important text John 1:12 which shows this very thing. I fear however that you may be confusing the concepts of regeneration and justification and that this is simply another case of reading a verse in isolation and building a theology around it without looking at the immediate context. The very next verse (V.13) of John chapter one actually qualifies the statement about how be become adopted children of God in verse 12. It does this by asserting that this gift does not come about by the will of man but through the new birth or regeneration.
Lets read the whole thing in context:
"He [Jesus] came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." (John 1: 11-13)
In other words, we all believe the gospel unto the adoption of God's children because of the grace of God in regeneration, not because man exercised his unregenerate will. We were born of God, not by the will, but by the Spirit. In John's gospel Jesus contrasts the terms flesh and Spirit (God) together several times. And interestingly, each time He uses them in the context of regeneration. For example, in John chapter 3:6-8
"That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."
Jesus is speaking to Nicodemus about his need to be born again if he is to see or enter the kingdom of heaven. It is not the flesh that makes this decision to be born again, Jesus says, but the Spirit. Notice Jesus likening the Spirit to wind which no one knows which way it is going to go. Jesus usage of the wind metaphor is speaking of the Spirit working sovereignly to bring about the new birth.
As if this was not enough, John again uses this same terminology of flesh and Spirit in John 6:63-65
"It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe." (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father." (John 6:63-65)
Jesus could not be more plain in conveying that our flesh can do nothing AT ALL, not even believe the gospel apart from the quickening work of the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit who gives life. No one can believe in Jesus unless God grants it. In other words, no one can say, â€œJesus is Lord,â€ except by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12.3). Elsewhere, the person without the Spirit cannot understand spiritual things. 1 Cor 2:14
So in conclusion, while faith and regeneration may occur at the same time temporally, but one is clearly the cause of the other ... in this case, regeneration being the cause of faith for the same reason that healthy eyes are the cause of eyesight; ears the cause of hearing and a new heart is the cause of faith. At the same time God gives us a new spiritual heart, we understand and love Jesus Christ and spiritual truth. As soon as He grants us spiritual eyes, we see. No one can believe in Jesus unless God grants it (John 6:65) and all to whom God grants it, will believe (John 6:37).
grace and peace,