Honest Answers for Common Objections
to Monergistic Regeneration
by John Hendryx

Over time I have run into several common objections to the biblical concept that regeneration precedes faith. I have noted their objections below in red with my comments following in black. For a more complete understanding of monergism click here.

Question: How can you say regeneration precedes faith? Doesn’t the Bible clearly teach that regeneration is the result of faith? What about: John 1:12b “...to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God--”. Doesn’t this show that they become children of God after belief?

The above passage is one that I have seen many synergists use when debating against monergistic regeneration. However, John 1:12 is referring to our justification & adoption, not regeneration. Although the various doctrines of salvation are closely related, they are not the same thing. Historical Christianity has always taught that we become Christians, adopted into God’s family, only AFTER we believe, never before. But regeneration precedes and enables the faith which, in turn, justifies. Remember that the entire sequence of God's saving work takes place instantly.

In regeneration God opens the eyes of our faith which is a witness of God's regenerative grace already at work in the heart, as in the instance of Lydia (Acts 16:14b): “the Lord opened her heart [Lydia] to give heed to what was said by Paul". May I suggest that what happened to Lydia is what happens to everyone who comes to faith in Christ. Take a closer look at what is said: God opened her heart so that she would understand and believe. Now can you imagine if in the Bible it said "And the Lord opened her heart to give heed to what was said by Paul, BUT SHE RESISTED." No, that would be absurd - no one resists the inward call of salvation (John 6:37,39, Rom 8:30). So whenever God opens someone's heart to understand ("to take heed") they will always willingly embrace Christ freely as the inevitable result and this is what takes place in regeneration. Also notice in this encounter that God the Holy Spirit opens the heart of Lydia through using the preaching of Paul but it is the Holt Spirit who sovereignly dispenses grace as He wills. This seems to be the pattern in the New Testament: the Holy Spirit's work of regeneration takes place during the reading or preaching of His word. As the word goes forth the Holy Spirit applies the new birth to the elect at the preordained time of God's choosing (Acts 13:48). God doesn't withhold the choice from us but our unregenerate nature, which loves darkness and hates the light, by itself would never choose God left to itself. God gives us new eyes to see (since we were formerly blind) which effectually results in faith. Paul's own conversion was not unlike this.

When synergists use this verse (John 1:12b) as a proof text against regeneration preceding faith they are also making an argument from silence. More importantly, the next part of this same verse (John 1:13) is actually strong evidence to the contrary - because it reveals that regeneration DOES precede faith. Lets go back and look at the whole thing and read it in its context:

John 1:12b-13 ““To those 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.”

The NIV even translates it as saying “not of human decision.” The so-called proof text of the synergist has actually turned around and become powerful evidence for monergistic regeneration, that the Holy Spirit is the only effective agent in regeneration. Do you then, as a synergist, maintain that God awaits our will to be cleansed from sin, but do not confess that even our will to be cleansed comes to us through the infusion and working of the Holy Spirit? So the divine order in salvation is predestination, calling, regeneration, faith, justification, glorification. (ROM 8:30) Biblical historic Christianity teaches indeed that faith precedes justification but even prior to faith comes the regenerating grace of God, not the “will of man”. This is why Luther stressed Sola Gracia (grace alone) with the same zeal that he defended sola fide (faith alone). The synergist, then, takes the unbiblical position that we choose God when the Bible clearly states otherwise (John 15:16). He will protest: “but God works together with man for salvation” - but I ask you then, who makes the final decision? you? Then how is it that you happen to have faith while your next door neighbor does not? Is your perception better, or are you more wise? What is it in you that gives you better insight than someone else? Then it would still come down to our own ability to discern better than the next person and thus you have made your faith into a work, rather than recognizing that faith itself is merely a witness that God is already working in the inner man.

It is my belief that as Christians we need to be constantly reforming our understanding to be more in line with biblical truth. As such we need to preach the whole council of God and not merely half a verse. As we read the whole passage above (John 1:12-13) the true meaning becomes clear. The same tendency appears when the synergists single out the one verse John 3:16 as a "proof text" but when we look at the whole passage of John 3 it becomes clear that we must first be born again if we are to enter the kingdom of heaven. There is the following cryptic passage in the text which only makes sense when we understand the full teaching that regeneration precedes faith:

"Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." John 3:6-8

God, the Holy Spirit does whatever He pleases, and you don't know if He is coming or going: everyone born of the Spirit comes forth likewise. When we preach the Gospel He works in whomever He pleases. Why do you think Jesus uses the term "birth"? Just as we had no part in the beginnings of our physical birth, so we have no part in our spiritual birth. Yet when we are born we immediately gasp for air (like faith), which is our doing (by grace).

Question: (Here are some other verses (including comments) I have heard that Synergists commonly ask regarding this doctrine):

Gal 3:2 “I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?

--- So according to this passage did these people receive the Spirit before believing or after?

Acts 2:38 “repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit?

--- when did they receive the Holy Spirit before belief of after?

Eph 1:13 “And you were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.

-- When did they receive the Holy Spirit - after belief or before?

This is a really a good question - one which needs to be further clarified so people are not confused by it.

The argument presented above that because believers receive the Holy Spirit (to indwell them) after faith, therefore automatically excludes any of God's work in unbelievers prior to faith assumes way too much. All three of these verses are mute on what the work of the Spirit might be in an person prior to their belief so it is an argument from silence to conclude, therefore, that God, the Holy Spirit, does not effectually bring His people to saving faith behind the scenes, especially since this is the testimony of so many other texts of scripture. Doctrinal error usually occurs, I have found, when we take isolated verses, such as these, without consulting the whole counsel of Scripture to draw our conclusions. As you might guess, therefore, it is natural to assume that I do not believe the Spirit's work of regeneration is exactly the same concept as what is discussed in these above verses.

Acts 2:38

The context of some of these verses themselves even point to the work of the Holy Spirit prior to faith. Take the above example of Acts 2:38 “...Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit?. Why is it that Acts 2:39, the very next verse, is left off since it directly qualifies the foregoing text? It says, "For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself." This demonstrates that those who come to faith in Christ are only those "God calls to Himself." The words "as many" makes it clear that this isn't a call that all people receive. The very text you are using to try to disprove monergism actually is a proof text for it. Romans 8:30 verifies this interpretation when it says, "...these whom He [God] called, He also justified". It is plain that this means "all who were called (without exception), were also justified." We all, at some point, resist the outward call of the gospel and various movements of the Spirit, but when God sovereignly determines to dispense His grace on His people, we undergo restoration, our natural hostility is melted away and we no longer desire to put up resistance. The inward call of the Spirit infallibly brings us to faith in the Redeemer. (Also see 1 Cor 1:24 for the inward call)

Ephesians 1:13

The above Ephesians 1:13 passage is also being read in isolation. It says, "Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit." Indeed, but again, what about context?. There are other verses which seem to qualify this one. Ironically in the context of the same passage two verses earlier it reads, "... also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will." (Eph 1: 11) Verse five even says, "In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved...." You see, these verses, in the same context, teach that the grace of God preceded our faith. Freely bestowed means "without conditions" or not because of something He was responding to in us like foreknowledge of our choice ... rather the text says that it was according to God's good pleasure alone. You would have thought Paul was clear enough in this passage leading up to belief, but God's free grace seems to be casually overlooked by many.

Galatians 3:2

“I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Gal 3:2 Again, the context of this whole passage speaks of whether we are saved by law or through faith. It is of interest to note that Paul uses Abraham's children as an example. Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman. The son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise. God unilaterally and monergistically promised that Abraham would have a son through Sarah. Allegorically speaking, these women represent two covenants: one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar. Abraham tried to circumvent God's promise by having the promised son through Hagar, his slave, rather than believe God's promise that He alone will bring it about. On Abraham's part this represents an attempt to synergistically bring about God's promise. But God's promise was monergistic and He would bring about Isaac after Sarah was beyond childbearing age so that they would get the message that salvation is of the Lord.

"Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. At that time the son born in the ordinary way persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now. But what does the Scripture say? "Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman's son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman's son." Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman. Gal 4:28-31

God's Word is Honored When We Consider All He Has Said

So not only do verses need to be read in context but we must always investigate what the whole Bible teaches about a certain subject. The Spirit comes to indwell us after we have faith - this is true as far as it goes but it does not show us the whole picture. Many other texts of scripture make it abundantly clear that the grace of God and the power of the Spirit must work in us if we are to believe. We often must consider both what God is doing and what we are doing and there are many places where God gives us enough data to see that He is working behind the scenes to bring His people to faith in Christ.

While salvation is a unitary work of God it is helpful to distinguish various aspects of it if we are to get the gospel right. The word "regeneration" is a synonym with the concept "born again" and is what initially unites us to Christ giving us the grace to believe (John 1:3, 6, 21). The Scriptures, as we have already seen, clearly show us that our belief is a result, not the cause, of the effectual calling, illumination and inner work of the Holy Spirit (John 1:13, 1 John 5:1, Matthew 16:17, Rom 9:16, Hebrews 12:2, 2 Timothy 1:9) What takes place behind the scenes (the Spirit's work) is not always discussed in every verse which shows someone trusting Christ. But when we look at the whole counsel of Scripture it is abundantly evident. Sometimes God opens a spiritual window so we can catch a glimpse of what is taking place when a spiritually dead person is brought to life. Acts 13:48 is such an example of God working behind the scenes when the gospel is preached: "When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed."

Although the benefits of salvation all happen simultaneously, it is helpful if we distinguish them here for a moment. (Keep in mind that all references to a sequence in time is merely for your benefit). We are only born again once yet this new birth has abiding effects. The inaugural entrance and His indwelling are all a part of what instantly takes place. So regeneration is the Spirit working in us to raise us from spiritual death, to open our spiritual eyes (and ears) so that we may see and understand and most willingly trust in Christ (and His work). As part of the same action, this immediately and infallibly results in the Spirit coming to seal and indwell us. As so many scripture texts testify, the Spirit can work in us prior to our belief to restore our spiritual eyesight but faith and the sealing work of the Spirit only comes as the immediate effect of the preceding cause. When the Holy Spirit germinates the seed cast forth by the preaching of the word of God, as it were, the Spirit also quickens the fallen nature of the elect, in order that His word be gladly submitted to. Our new disposition cannot but guarantee that we will place our faith in Christ. In 1 Thessalonians 1:5 Paul even differentiates a gospel without the power of the Spirit and a gospel that includes the Spirit: "for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction." As we look more carefully then, Galatians 3:2 is not so much referring specifically to the inaugural act of regeneration, or what led up to and caused belief, but rather to our being sealed in Christ as the result of the simultaneous effect of regeneration, faith and justification. This specific text (Gal 3:2) does not, in any way, attempt to deny the work of the Spirit prior to belief but is more interested in explaining an unrelated doctrine.

It is clear, then, that all the benefits of salvation that Christ purchased for us on the cross are closely and organically interrelated as the Spirit applies them to His people. In fact, regeneration, believing and the Spirit's sealing occur at the same time just like the act of opening our eyes and the act of seeing do. While the spiritual reviving, the response and the indwelling are simultaneous, it is with absolute certainty that it was the power of God that caused the "light" to go on (mercifully illumined our darkened minds), so to speak. As an imperfect analogy, when Lazarus was called forth from the tomb he did not respond in his own power. Christ's call itself carried with it the power of new life, yet it was Lazarus that responded. To try and separate the various aspects of salvation is like trying to separate sight from seeing or the rays of the sun from the sun itself. One must arise from the other and they are not separate. In the same way, Lazarus' response is not in question, but certain. Also certain is that the power of Christ's fiat to raise Him preceded and called forth his spirit to enter back into him. Similarly, God giving us the power of new life and the actual exercize of that new life are intimately mingled together and components of the same thing yet it was caused by God alone.

When justified, the Spirit comes to indwell us, to take up residence, since the justifying benefits of the atonement have been applied to us. Justification makes it possible, so to speak, for the Holy Spirit to dwell within us since our sin has been taken away. However, we must remember this all happens instantaneously so that those sinners the Spirit regenerates when hearing the word will immediately place their faith in Christ with delight. But this all occurs in relation to the other components of new life. So, regeneration is both inaugural and has abiding effects. The inaugural causal work is like the Spirit calling to us and giving us the power of response working in, through, and around us. There is no time that transpires here. Our faith is wrought by God (John 3:20) yet our response is certain because it is the Spirit that works life in us. We must admit that the Scriptures do not describe exactly how this takes place so there is certainly mystery but the Scripture explicitly teaches that we are born of God and only then exercize faith (John 1:13).

Ordo Salutis

While it is true that no time or sequence is involved, I cannot emphasize enough that regeneration, the work of the Holy Spirit which brings us into a living union with Christ, has a CAUSAL priority over the other aspects of the process of salvation. Other benefits such as conversion (faith & repentance), justification, sanctification and perseverance presuppose the existence of the work of the Spirit in opening our eyes and changing our hearts' rebellious disposition. The work of applying God's grace, however, is a unitary process given to the elect simultaneously. Though these benefits cannot be separated, it is helpful to distinguish them for our understanding. Therefore, instead of imposing a chronological order we should view these as a unitary work of God to bring us into union with Christ. We must always keep in mind that these orders occur together or happen simultaneously like the turning on of a light switch. Herman Bavinck said of the order of salvation, "Regeneration, faith, conversion, renewal, and the like, often [in the Bible] do not point to successive steps in the way of salvation but rather summarize in a single word the entire change which takes place in a man." In other words, there is no delay and there is no one out there who is born again who does not place their faith in Christ. Similarly a physical baby, when born, gasps for air with its lungs for the first time only after it is born, not before, but it occurs as his/her first act.. The various works of the Holy Spirit in our salvation as well as bringing us to faith all take place instantaneously . Regeneration carries with it the concept of the opening of our eyes of understanding as it was in the case of Lydia (Acts 16:14b). So while it is biblically correct to say that the Spirit comes to indwell us when we believe the gospel, even the very ability to humbly accept the terms of the gospel itself must come by God's grace to open our darkened understanding. Similarly, when the disciples questioned Jesus after he explained that salvation was as difficult as a camel going through the eye of a needle, they asked, "who then can be saved?" Jesus answered, "What is impossible with man is possible with God." In other words, salvation is by grace alone, belief is always by grace alone. "...By grace, through faith, and that NOT OF YOURSELVES, it is a gift of God."(Eph 2:5, 8). Some modern evangelicals, having lost sight of what actually was gained in the Reformation, are exalting sola fide (faith alone) above the equally biblical teaching of sola gratia (grace alone). Why look back and again desire the flesh we ate in Egypt (in the bondage of human works) when we now have the pure manna of grace from God (Jesus Christ)? To the Apostles and the Reformers, sola gratia was always ultimate while sola fide was penultimate. Faith looks away from itself to the work of Christ, yet no one has a natural capacity for faith, or God would be saving us based on our innate abilities. What differentiates us from the unregenerate is the grace of God, not something we can produce or contribute to the price of our salvation independently.

The Atonement and Its Relation to Regeneration

Important: Here I wish to show the further connection the cross and regeneration. An error made by many persons in our evangelical circles, in this respect, is to make an unbiblical bifurcation of the work of Christ and our regeneration. That is, to separate the two as if they have nothing to do with each other. But the Scriptures teach that Christ did everything necessary for our salvation, including purchasing us out of our unregenerate state.

"...Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again [caused us to be born again] unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" - 1 Pet 1:3 (also see Titus 2:14)

R.L. Dabney said, "Christ's sacrifice has purchased and provided for the effectual calling of the elect, with all the graces which insure their faith, repentance, justification, perseverance, and glorification. Now, since the sacrifice actually results in all these different consequences, they are all included in God's design. This view satisfies all those texts quoted against us." To somehow believe that the grace of God that helped us believe is separate from the work of Christ is to make the work of Christ of no effect. All Christians believe the application of the atonement is limited to those who will be saved , right?... so the question is .. who limits this application of redemption ... does natural fallen man, who is hostile to God, by exercising his natural free will, apart from illuminating grace, do the limiting ... or does God, who set His affection on us from eternity determine to whom He will apply the benefits of the atonement? If one concludes it is unregenerate man that does this autonomously, then this amounts to a faith-contribution which is itself a principle standing ultimately independent of God's action of grace; owing exclusively to man's natural endowment with a free will and thus arises out of an inherent capacity of the natural man. In this unbiblical scheme, some men naturally have this ability and some don't. This is contrary to the gospel which says "what do we have that we did not receive?" So when God comes to us in His regenerative grace, even that is something Jesus purchased for us on the cross. To separate it is to say we can pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps.

Furthermore, while it may be inconsistant of synergists, a (perhaps) subconscious belief in monergism is how even most of them actually pray for their unbelieving friends. We all do so because we rightly believe that God is actually going to do something for them. If God cannot actually go in and change their hearts' disposition, then what are we, in fact, praying for? If everyone has an equal opportunity before God, and God can do nothing more, as the synergists are saying doctrinally, then what is the use in praying for our unbelieving friends?. Either God does something in answer to your prayer for that person's soul or He does not. We don't say "Oh God, may they autonomously make the right decision, etc.!", for such a prayer would be tantamount to having God do nothing but stand on the sidelines with folded arms, so to speak. Instead we pray, "God, turn their hearts toward You; open their blind eyes, open their deaf ears, and save them." The real reason we pray is that someone would have the grace to believe and that God would overcome that individuals resistance when we preach the gospel.

To conclude, even the beginning and the very desire for faith, by which we believe in Him who justifies the ungodly comes to us through regeneration --- "And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6). It is God that began the work in us, not we ourselves and ALL those He began a work in, He will bring to completion. It is by the regeneration, infusion and inspiration of the Holy Spirit within us that we even have the faith, the will, or the strength to do all these things as we ought. Do you make the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and not agree that it is the gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble? If you do then look closer at the Scriptures which say, "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).

Related Articles
Regeneration And Indwelling In John by James M. Hamilton Jr.
There is no exegetical warrant for equating regeneration and indwelling. This is an excellent paper which clearly shows that indwelling and regeneration are entirely different ministries of the Spirit.

Question: Another argument is - What about Acts 2:40 “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” -- Doesn't the Scripture here teach here that it is we who must act? -- that we must command unbelievers to have faith in Christ? This proves faith precedes regeneration doesn't it?

Lets first look at this whole passage in context where Peter is preaching in Acts 2:38 on:

Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off--for all whom the Lord our God will call." 40With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation." 41Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

So if read in context we immediately understand that Peter qualifies his statement with "for all whom the Lord our God will call." Therefore we must be careful to read everything in context.

Somehow those who are against monergistic regeneration seem to think that someone who believes in this doctrine could not possibly then teach unbelievers to repent, believe, and “save yourselves”, as mentioned above. But on the contrary we are required as believers to preach the word as is delivered in the Scriptures in its entirety. There is no contradiction here. We who teach monergistic regeneration must preach to the unregenerate a Gospel of repentance and faith toward Christ. But we must know that as we preach the word it is the Holy Spirit that utilizes it to quicken the elect to life, not the sinners own ability... Peter says,

“You have been born anew, not of perishable seed but but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God...That word is the good news preached to you.” (1 Peter 1:23,25)

James says,
“He chose to give us birth through the word of truth“ (James 1:18).

Both of these passages teach that regeneration comes as the result of the Spirit's sovereign work during the hearing or reading of the word of God. But until the Spirit gives us ears to hear, the seed of the word will remain dormant. To those he ordains to eternal life (Acts 13:48) He utilizes it to summons us to a new life in the Spirit so that we are enabled to respond to the word in faith when He opens our eyes. It is an instantaneous, monergistic, divine work which accomplished entirely by the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the Word of God (Rom 10:13-15; John 5:24). (Click here for further explanation of the relationship between the word of God and regeneration.)

Many people who are "dead in sin" (Eph 2:5) can seek and read the Scriptures and hear it preached, but their unregenerate nature always supresses the truth they hear unless they receive the inward call of the Holy Spirit. They may be seeking for something, but not the true God (Rom 1:18, Rom 3:18). In our preaching we do call unbelievers to faith and repentance. They will not respond, however, to something they cannot understand nor desire to understand (1 Cor 2:14, Rom 3:11). We always choose what we desire most (according to our nature) and without the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit we would always choose to suppress the truth of God. We do have a free will but our moral compass has been smashed. As a result of the fall we love darkness, hate the light and willingly suppress the truth in unrighteousness. This IS what we want prior to regeneration; it is in our nature. So God does not just look ahead to see who has faith and choose accordingly, because there is no one who fits this description. So He mercifully brings to life His own: those whom He has chosen in eternity according to His good pleasure (John 17:9, Eph 1:4,5). The reason is within God Himself and since there is no better reason possible than God, we should be delighted to accept this. He is not morally obligated to choose everyone. You may say “this is not just” -- if it is justice you want, everyone, (especially me) deserves to suffer under God's wrath - I don’t think you want justice. It is mercy we need which He has given by pouring the justice we deserve on His Son - for those He has given the Son from eternity, in His infinite wisdom and lovingkindness. Mercy is not getting what we justly deserve.

Question: Some have argued - Faith is not a gift given in a monergistic fashion, but is developed synergistically in cooperation with the Holy Spirit.

This is a basic philosophical presupposition that synergists have which is not biblically based. To say that man’s will and God’s will work together to effect salvation doesn’t tell me anything. When questioned further a synergist will answer that God gives enough grace for everyone (on earth) to believe but unregenerate man himself is ultimately left with the freewill and ability to believe or reject God. If this is the case where then is synergism? ...there is no divine election of man here, only man’s election of God. Man, according to this scheme, chooses God based on whether he has more insight or understanding than his next door neighbor. Sounds like something to boast in aside from Christ's finished work.

Lets go to the Scriptures - the following verses show that monergistic grace will produce faith as its inevitable result. That salvation is not a human decision working together with God but divine mercy alone that even gives us the will to believe.

John 6:37,39 “All that the Father gives me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to me I will certainly not cast out...And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all He has given me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.”

John 17:9 “I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom Thou hast given Me, for they are Thine.”

ROM 9:16 “It does not therefore depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.”

Ephesians 1:4 "For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will."

Clearly the above verses speak to the fact that the Father has determined who His people will be from eternity, which is based entirely on His good pleasure. His reason is within Himself and not conditioned by what we do or don’t decide. Thus the synergistic position is not only unbiblical but is not even synergistic itself because, in the end, it leaves salvation entirely in the hands of man (not both working together). Either God chooses us or we choose God - there is no middle position. I do anticipate protests from them as I say this but show me please how both God’s choice and man’s choice can both be true? In fact when questioned about this I hear synergists often claim that God gives everyone grace but the final decision is left to us. This is not even synergistic but anthropocentric in the end. Salvation (according to synergists), then, depends entirely on how good a decision you made, rather than a humble recognition that it was entirely a work of grace. In agreement Reformed Theology teaches that man must indeed have faith but the question is how can he come to that faith without regenerative grace? Does he still have an island of righteousness within himself somewhere deep down, a will that desires the things of God. No he doesn’t (Rom 3:10-19). He requires a new nature if he is to believe for the old nature does not and will not understand the things of God (1 Cor 2:14, Rom 3:11, Rom 8:7). This is not some extreme position - it is plain in the Bible verses I just cited. Please take the time to read carefully the scripture I have referenced here before declaring my position extreme.

Question: Another common argument against regeneration preceding faith is that "the monergistic view makes salvation completely passive so you don’t even have to have faith in Christ. So are there people out there who are born of God but don’t believe in Christ? ....also What about the Philippian Jailer who asked "What must I do to be saved? (Acts 16:30) If Paul had been an extreme Calvinist he might have said," You can do nothing to be saved, absolutely nothing. You are dead in sin and totally unable to respond to exercize saving faith until you are regenerated ... but Paul said "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved." (Acts 16:31) How would the person who believes that regeneration precedes faith answer that?"

This caricature of someone who holds to monergistic regeneration is inaccurate at best. If we were to teach "do nothing but wait" then, I agree it would be unbiblical. All men are outwardly called by our preaching of faith in Christ. As I mentioned previously, regeneration comes only when the church preaches the gospel and the Holy Spirit utilizes that word to awaken the faith in the sinner who receives the inward call (ROM 8:30). These verses bear this out:

“You have been born anew, not of perishable seed but but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God...That word is the good news preached to you.” (1 Peter 1:23,25)

“He chose to give us birth through the word of truth“ (James 1:18).

Regeneration indeed precedes faith but occurs instantaneously so that the regenerated sinner, whose heart of stone has been changed to a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 11:19-20; Ezekiel 36:26-27), believes without hesitation. There is no person who is regenerate that does not believe in Christ and His finished work immediately. God isn't just regenerating us to nothing but rather unto faith since we now understand the things of God whereas before we did not (1 Cor 2:14). Regeneration itself carries with it the concept of having eyes to see. It is true that one remains passive (or resistant) until regenerated but this must be defined. Our fallen unregenerate nature does not want the things of God and will always reject Him when left on our own unless Christ calls us. This is what Christ speaks of in John 6 when He says that:

“the Spirit quickens, the flesh counts for nothing....the words I have spoken to you are Spirit and are life. But there are some of you who do not believe. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that did not believe, and who it was who would betray Him....For this reason I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted from the Father.” 6:63-65

Only God’s chosen will be "quickened" by the Spirit and none will come to Christ unless the Father grants it. The flesh and will count for nothing - it is the Spirit that gives life. The contrast is striking and just as people did not see the meaning in Jesus day there are many who still do not understand in our own. Christ emphasizes the truth of God's effectual work in salvation throughout John chapter 6 (John 6:37,39,44,63,65). In regeneration, the disposition of our heart is changed so we will want to believe ... no one comes to Christ kicking and screaming - all come willingly as evidenced by abundant verses in Scripture.

Question: Brothers who speak against monergism also often say: This view will hinder evangelism & missions because you won’t share the gospel with non-Christians until you feel such people have been born of God because they won’t understand the Gospel message until they are born again.

This is a complete misunderstanding and, may I say, misrepresentation of the teaching of monergism. People can never be born again without hearing the Gospel. As I mentioned serveral times above, the Holy Spirit works thorough the spoken word to awaken faith in the sinner. Historically, some of the greatest evangelists and missionaries of all time had a monergistic view. George Whitefield, noted by many as the most successful missionary/preachers ever, was a five point Calvinist who had a genuinely humble disposition. He and Jonathan Edwards were some of the most important figures involved in the Great Awakening. David Brainerd & William Carrey also believed this. It was also a misconception that Calvin was against missions, as many Arminians seem to like saying. The fact is that his students who came from all over Europe were training in his school in Geneva were also sent out to further the Reformation far and wide. Many of those who went to France to further the cause of the Huguenots were martyred, and they went knowing that this was a likely result. Spurgeon, a five point Calvinist, and also considered one ofthe great evangelists of all time drew great crowds and strongly held to a monergistic view of regeneration as we can see from the following quotes:
- A man is not saved against his will, but he is made willing by the operation of the Holy Ghost. A mighty grace which he does not wish to resist enters into the man, disarms him, makes a new creature of him, and he is saved. (Sermons, Vol. 10, p.309)
- Free will carried many a soul to hell, but never a soul to heaven
- A sinner can no more repent and believe without the Holy Spirit's aid than he can create a world.

Soul winning was one of his greatest desires. In fact I would argue that to believe in monergistic regeneration is an impetus, rather than a hindrance to missions. No one will believe without a preacher as is stressed in Romans 10. Without hearing the word of God or having a Bible in hands, the pagan nations will perish. God is sovereign but works concurrently with his church to effect salvation in His elect through the proclamation of the word. The Holy Spirit uses the word of God applied in the heart of the unbeliever so that he may be quickened and willingly believe (1 Peter 1:23,25, James 1:18) Without preaching they are lost.

The current lack of real interest in in churches to get behind world missions I would argue is rather due to the synergistic concept. Why? Because many modern evangelicals have the unbiblical notion that since God is loving he couldn't possibly let the poor heathen nations who never heard the Gospel perish. Somehow many Arminians believe that God gives everyone (even the unreached) an equal chance to hear. So many of them may reason "why go then?" Rather it is the one who believes that God will effectually utilize the preaching of the word who will find motivation to go preach to the nations. This doctrine certainly is a motivation to me. My wife and I have already spent 10 years overseas as missionary/church planters. It gives me great encouragement to go knowing that God will use the word proclaimed to call His elect home, in spite of myself. If I were to go believing that I had to convince people without the regenerative work of the Spirit working in them, I would despair. I would agree with John Piper who says: "Evangelism and missions are not imperiled by the biblical truth of election, but empowered by it, and their triumph is secured by it" (The Pleasures of God , 149). To say these doctrines hinder the Gospel is to avoid truth and history.

Question: Doesn’t the Monergistic view make us mere puppets?

We must be clear that monergism does not apply to the entire process of salvation, but only to the first step of a person coming to faith in Christ. It is only in God's power to bring to life a person who is spiritually dead. This means that a man’s soul is utterly unwilling until it has been regenerated. But when regenerated the disposition of his heart is changed. He willingly turns to embrace the Savior since his hatred of God has been transformed to a love for Him (Ezekiel 11:19-20). This willingness is not puppetry, but a true desire of the individual to turn to embrace Christ.

It is true that our free will was limited by our fallen nature when unregenerate (due to our own folly), since we would always choose what we most desired, which was sin. But regeneration enabled our souls freely and delightfully choose to embrace our Savior. We are not puppets but fully individuals with a choice now because the noetic effects of sin (the effects of the fall on our will and mind) have been reversed. I would argue that the fact that God has a plan for everything in the universe gives us meaning, rather than makes us puppets. He personally reigns supreme and has worked out everything according to his will. With no divine plan for our lives I would argue that all meaning is also lost. To say the concept of monergism (regeneration precedes faith) makes us puppets is also incorrect. It, rather, makes us objects of God’s mercy, without which we would be eternally lost. We all sinned willfully, according to our choice. We deserve nothing but God’s wrath. Yet, in spite of our rebellion God remarkably demonstrated that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. God actively pursued His lost sheep and gave us back true dignity. Click here for a more extensive answer.

Question: Doesn't the extreme Calvinist, then, preach "live and thou shalt believe" rather than "believe and thou shalt live."?

No, he does not preach this way but he knows that the dead sinner will not respond unless the Spirit utilizes the Word to bring him to life (Eph 2:4-8, 1 Peter 1:23,25). Just as the Bible references the Apostles preaching that all men are commanded everywhere to repent and believe the Gospel, so the "extreme Calvinist" as you put it does the same. Although I have heard many synergists claim this is what Calvinists teach, after many years of study I have never run across something even remotely resembling this. Again, it is in our preaching of the word itself that carries with it the power to bring life to the dead sinner when applied by the Holy Spirit. Of course one must believe in order to be justified, but even the belief itself is the gracious work of God in our hearts (2 Tim 2:25). Regeneration carries with it the willingness to believe (John 6:37,39). No one who is regenerated will be disinterested or resistant but they will be believing. The outward call is to all people and a response of faith in the Gospel is the witness that the Spirit of God has applied the New Birth to them. "Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit...The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit." John 3:8

This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.
John 3:19-21

Whosoever believes in God's Son has eternal life but only those whom the Father has given the Son will come. (John 3:16; John 6:37,39,44,65,66)

We preach faith in Christ to unbelievers since regeneration is the work of the Holy Spirit, and He alone can apply the work of regeneration on whomever He chooses. The unregenerate will not respond in faith willingly until God opens their eyes.



Three Important truths to remember:

1. All people, according to the Scriptures, are required to repent and believe in order to be saved and every man or woman who believes the Gospel will be saved and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. There are no people who were ever forgiven and adopted into God's family who did not willingly turn away from sin to place their faith in Christ and His finished work. The Bible says there is only ONE way to answer "What must I do to be saved?" It is "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ ..."

2. Faith in Christ is not the act of someone else but is the free act of the person who has it. People of their their own will are required to forsake sin and to receive Christ. God does not somehow repent and believe for us. We alone repent and believe.

So far, according to what I have stated above, the Scripture clearly shows both divine and human action in God's plan of salvation.

I would imagine that your initial response to the above three points to be - But John is this not the same as the synergist teaches? Perhaps, but at the same time it is undeniably Biblical. I could show you from the Scriptures where all of the above is taught. If you know anyone that denies the above facts, then that person, regardless of what he labels himself (Calvinist, Evangelical, Arminian, Pelagian), is denying the clear message of the Bible. Historic Christianity, if it's faithful to the scripture, teaches all of the above truths, and that includes Reformed Theology. If any of the above points are missing then there is a problem with the soteriology.

However I must point out that there is also a third point that also must be stressed if we are to teach the whole counsel of Scripture since in the statements above I merely taught what the Bible says a man must do in order to be saved. But it is also VERY important to note what the Scripture says an unregenerate sinner is not capable of doing.

3. According to my Bible man is to repent and believe in order to be saved, but also it most definitively states that man, because of the effects of the fall on all his faculties, including his will, is wholly unable to repent and believe without divine regenerative grace.. Man's faculties not only do not have the ability to receive Bible truth but do not even have the slightest desire to do so. Our unbelief is clearly an act of the will is it not? - it is what we desire most when in our unregenerate state. A bad tree cannot bear good fruit.

To preach the first two points, but, at the same time, to abandon the third is not preaching the full counsel of God and to distort the Gospel. It unfortunately gives a false understanding of the effect of the fall on the human race and of our true redemptive need. It communicates only part of what the Bible teaches on sin. It passes by the most critical point of our need as fallen beings, that is, our total lack of ability to overcome our hatred of God and love of darkness. Unfortunately the modern distorted understanding of the Gospel which leaves out man's inability is woefully incomplete. Modern evangelicalism has driven down an empty road because it has failed to preach the whole counsel of God. It is a confused "gospel" that has no clear teaching on man's responsibility as well as his inability. It is terribly mistaken to assume that those dead in sin have the moral ability to carry out God's command to believe and obey. As an example, man cannot understand Spiritual things until given a new nature (1 Cor 2:14) He cannot come to faith unless the Father has given them to the Son from eternity and is irresistibly called by the Holy Spirit (John 6:37,39,44,45,63-65; Eph 1:4,5) Jesus and Paul, as clearly shown by these references, both teach the third point in their Gospel, so why should we leave it out?

It must be made clear that an unregenerate sinner cannot come to Christ until he is given the new birth. Before that time he only desires what is according to his nature, sin. Man has no part whatever in regeneration since it is exclusively the work of the Holy Spirit. And just as we needed Christ as a penal substitution to pay the penalty of our sin, we also needed the work of the Holy Spirit to give us a new nature through regeneration. The Son of God delivers us from the penalty of sin, but the Holy Spirit alone can deliver us from the totalizing effects the fall had on our will and ability. It is the Holy Spirit's work of regeneration through the preaching of the word that enables us to savingly receive the vicarious atoning work of Christ in genuine faith. The Triune God works together in our salvation - the Father elects us, the Son redeems us and the Holy Spirit regenerates, indwells and sanctifies us. We truly dishonor God when we do not acknowledge his grace for all of our salvation. It amazes me to see so many modern evangelicals say that the sinner must first give the Spirit permission to regenerate them. GUFFAW!!!

This new "gospel of freewillism" has the deep rooted problem in that it fails to understand that man's part, repentance and faith, are the witness, the result and fruit of God's inner work in the soul. Those who teach that God will reward your faith with the New Birth, is to misapprehend the gospel message by not giving glory to God where it is due.

The modern "gospel" teaches man's responsibility (which is correct), but fails to teach his inability.


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