Arminianism, Calvinism, Controversial Issues

Response to a Calvinist on: Does Regeneration Precede Faith? Can An Unregenerate Person Freely Choose?

This is a response to Calvinist, a person who is of Reformed theology on can a person freely choose to believe in God (Jesus) without being regenerated?  Does regeneration precede faith?  Does the Bible teach free will, freely able to choose, or can a person only come to faith in God (Jesus) by being first regenerated (born again; spiritually made alive; a new creation; indwelt by the Holy Spirit)?  These are questions that people ask me often concerning the teachings of Calvinism, Reformed theology, and how to reply to what Calvinist’s teach concerning free will and total depravity.  

According to those who believe in Calvinism no one is able to freely choose to believe or follow God (Jesus) because of the doctrine of Total Depravity.  The doctrine of Total Depravity in Calvinism, reformed theology teaches that a person is unable to freely believe in God (Jesus) because they are enslaved to sin.  Therefore it is only by God’s grace that anyone is saved because it is through regeneration that anyone is able to believe, and this is only by God giving the the Holy Spirit.  In other words, regeneration must precede faith, according to the teachings of Calvinism.

What does the Bible teach on regeneration?  Does the Bible teach Total Depravity as Calvinist’s claim?  Can an Unregenerate person freely believe in the Lord?  These are questions that I answered below in response to a Calvinist.  If you have any other questions please visit our Calvinism section where many other topics are covered and addressed.

“You stated that a person is unable to come to Jesus Christ unless something happens first, and that means unless the Father draws them (causes them to be regenerated). I replied stating that a person being drawn, “Helkuo,” means that they are induced, influenced, inspired, which means that no one on their own is comes to Christ without the Father and Holy Spirit (John 6:45; 16:7-15). This is also why I shared John 12:32, which talks about Jesus being on the cross and will draw all men unto Himself, which means that the cross is the influence, the inspiration, induces people to turn and repent, and seek forgiveness in Christ unto God. Jesus tasted death for everyone (Hebrews 2:9), His atonement is for anyone to receive (John 3:14-16), but they must accept or reject it.

In Numbers 21:4-9 God sent snakes to bite those who were grumbling and sinning against Him. They in turn cried out to Moses to plead to the LORD to save them, and the LORD told Moses to make a bronze serpent and put it upon a pole, and everyone who looks upon it will not die but will be delivered. Those Israelites had full responsibility, to freely choose to either look and live or die from being bitten by the snakes. What makes this relevant to this discussion is that Jesus makes this connection with Nicodemus in John 3:14 that in the same way to all who look to the Son and believe will receive eternal life, and those who do not will perish (John 3:14-18). Jesus used that same illustration of truth to communicate that His coming was for the world, for all, everyone, anyone, to either look and believe in Him for eternal life or to perish and die in their sin.

The message of the cross is good news for all, Jews and Gentiles, everyone, and that means anyone can receive Jesus without exception. Jesus said in John 6:45 that it is written in the prophets that all would be taught of God, and those who hear and learn come to Jesus. That is the message of the cross and resurrection, to the world, and that is why Romans 10:14-17 is so important. How will they hear unless one preaches? How will one preach unless one is sent? How beautiful are those who bring the glad tidings of good things, the gospel message! So faith comes by hearing from those who preach the gospel of Christ. Those who confess with their mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in their heart that God raised Him from the dead will be saved (Romans 10:9). This message is for anyone, no distinction, no partiality, for all who call upon Him, the name of the LORD will be saved (Romans 10:12-13). This is the gospel message as Jesus told His disciples in Luke 24:47-48.

You said:  “What we must take into consideration is regeneration which teaches that God does a work which causes the recipient to be born again that is to say that the nature and will of a person is miraculously changed to where they now willingly and freely come to Christ.”

Here is why I asked you about regeneration and what that word means in regards to a person becoming born again, made spiritually alive, a new creation, a person who has become a child of God.  It is no secret that you are of the Reformed theological view, which is stating the obvious.  According to Reformed theology a person cannot have faith or freely choose to believe in Jesus/God without first being regenerated.  In other words when a person is regenerated by God they are now able to choose to follow and believe in the Lord, where as they were not able to freely choose to follow or believe in the Lord without being regenerated (Reformed theology).

There is a major problem with that position.  Prior to Jesus’ death and resurrection the disciples freely choose to follow after Jesus, to follow Him, to believe, and none of them were born again or had the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  According to John 7:37-39 the Spirit was not given until Jesus was glorified, which means the Spirit was not given until after Jesus was crucified and resurrected.  Jesus taught the disciples in John 14:16-17 that the Holy Spirit was alongside them, and that the Holy Spirit would be in them later (they were not born again yet; they did not have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit).  After Jesus was crucified and resurrected He gave the Holy Spirit to His disciples, which is when they became born again, spiritually a new creation (John 20:22).  Paul taught in Ephesians 1:13-14 that after a person hears the gospel message (Romans 10:14-17), then believes in the gospel, this is when they receive the Holy Spirit and are regenerated.  Therefore a person must first hear the gospel being preached, and when they believe in the gospel message they then receive the Holy Spirit.  The Scriptures teach that person first believes the gospel and then they become spiritually alive (born again; a new creation), regenerated, indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

The Old Testament believers (those who trusted in the LORD; Abraham; David; etc) choose to freely follow the LORD before Jesus’ death and resurrection, before anyone could be regenerated (born again; spiritually alive). This demonstrates that people have a choice to freely choose to accept or reject God.  How could all the Old Testament followers believe in the LORD without being regenerated?

Remember that John 7:39 teaches that the Spirit was not given until Jesus was glorified.  Now people did have the Spirit in the Old Testament who guided them, empowered them, inspired them, filled them, but they never had the indwelling or the born again experience.  Regeneration is a New Testament (New Covenant) doctrine and experience, which is the reason why Jesus gave His life as an atoning sacrifice for the sin of the world (John 1:29; Hebrews 2:9; 1 John 2:1-2).  To be clear, just as those who in Numbers 21:4-9 were given the choice to be saved (delivered; not die), not all did and they were judged and died.  Those who looked upon the bronze serpent lived and were saved.  This is the same Biblical truth in regards to Jesus, which all those who accept the gospel become born again, a new creation, spiritually alive, and all those who do not die in the sin and will be judged (John 3:18; 5:24; 1 John 5:10-12; Revelation 20:11-15).

Now it is safe to say we will not agree here, most likely anyways.  I wanted to share a response that gives Biblical reasons for what I believe and why. I do respect you in the faith, and this does not have to go on and on.  If we do continue what I ask stay on the topic and what I have shared concerning my perspective.  In the end the real issue is how can a unregenerate person believe in the LORD before Jesus’ death and resurrection?  Since the Bible is clear that no one was regenerated prior to Jesus’ death and resurrection we have to examine how the disciples choose to believe in Jesus, and how the Old Testament believers believed in the LORD.”

This is for anyone to examine, to discuss, and share questions.  If you are a Calvinist, one who is of the Reformed theological view, you are welcome to discuss things here.  If you are not a Calvinist, but you have questions on teachings and doctrines of Calvinism, please feel free to ask.  

Lord bless,

In Christ Jesus,

Kelly Powers

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