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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • « Those Arminian texts? | Main | Images of the Savior (28 -- The Levitical Sacrifices) »

    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."

    Response:
    Hi Rey

    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, “Jesus is Lord,” 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,
    John

    Posted by John on October 16, 2008 12:58 PM

    Comments

    Great response. I used to be hesitant on embracing God's sovereignty in this area. I think mostly because it got in the way of my understanding of justice and fairness. Well, needless to say, my understanding of fairness is equivalent to the entire human race: incomplete.

    When thinking about it more, I finally "snuggled up", as I say, to the sovereignty of God. It produced nothing more than awe, humility, and worship of God. So many other things make sense in light of God's Entire Sovereignty, as I like to say.

    I'm writing an eBook about it, hopefully I can get it into people's hands. I should be done in about a month.

    Blessings,
    Jonathan

    As one who is Reformed and a Baptist I would simply like to point out that those of my persuasion do not subscribe to Rey's understanding of "power/right" and "baptism." I simply ask that my paedobaptist brothers not use Rey's comments as a straw man for all baptistic theologies.

    In Him,
    Chris

    I think Rey that is mentioned there is the same Rey that has this blog called The Bible Archive and is a member of this site called Theologica and he has often being a commenter on Tim Challies blog. Rey is a really nice chap and I believe he is a Christian but his Open Plymouth Brethren beliefs blind him to the fact of regeneration preceding faith. If Rey is the same Rey I think he is, Rey has been asking the same question for several years now. He has a real problem with Reformed Theology and does as much as he can to try and prove it false. He is fighting against the truth I am afraid to say, kicking the goads with bare feet. Ouch! I like Rey and I pray God opens his eyes to the truth.

    agape

    Douglas

    Hey all; just wanted to clear up some online confusion. I am the Rey Reynoso from the Bible Archive and from Theologica but I am not the Rey that asked this question.

    Firstly, I am not a Calvinist, it is true, but I don't base my non-Calvinism on those few verses out of John. I don't so much ask questions but outright state where I stand against it. Heh heh.

    Secondly, I haven't used the KJV for about fifteen years. And back then it was Spanish (Reina Valera) and English.

    Thirdly, the professed view of the verses regarding baptism and what it accomplishes is foreign to me since I see it very much as identifiably incorporating the individual before the covenantal community and the sons of Adam. I would rather it was done when the person believes, can support that Scripturally but acknowledge some of the shift that occurs today.

    Fourthly, I kick against the goads with shoes on. That way they don't hurt.

    lol

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