Now we come back to 1 John 5:1. I believe that we have successfully argued from the similar use of the Greek construction in other passages by John that being “born of God” precedes and results in that one “believes that Jesus is the Christ”. 1 John 5:1 is definite and explicit upon the teaching that regeneration precedes faith.
The Analogy and Other Considerations
The prime text for regeneration is John 3 and that is our Lord’s discourse with Nicodemus. There the Lord tells Nicodemus that he must be born again (John 3:3). What does that analogy mean? I believe it is the fulfillment of the promised New Covenant in Ezekiel 36:25-27. Regeneration is the secret act of God wherein He gives us a new heart and a new spirit. He basically makes us new creatures. That’s what regeneration is. Now, going back to the analogy. Nicodemus takes Jesus’ words in John 3:3 a little bit too literally when he says “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” (John 3:4). But Nicodemus’s words express some important things. Although he misunderstood the nature of the new birth, his objection stands. His objection is basically, how can anyone cause himself to be born again? How can he enter into the womb and will himself to be born? Just like with our natural birth, we had nothing to do with it. In all of it, we were passive. We were conceived by our parents without our will being involved and we were born without our will being involved (cf. John 1:12-13). Now we transition to the spiritual realm. Those who believe that faith precedes regeneration would have us believe that people can choose to be spiritually reborn. The problem with this is the testimony of the Bible about unregenerate man’s condition:
- dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1, 5; Col. 2:13),
- hates God (Rom. 1:30),
- slave to sin and Satan (John 8:34-36, 44; Eph. 2:2-3; 2 Tim. 2:25-26; Rom. 6:16-17; Titus 3:3),
- does not seek God (Rom. 3:11),
- cannot believe in God (John 10:24-26; 12:37-41; ),
- cannot come to Christ (John 6:44),
- the desires and intentions of his heart are evil (Gen. 6:5; 8:21),
- deceitful and desperately sick heart (Jer. 17:9),
- all things he does are sinful (Rom. 14:23; Isa. 64:6),
- cannot accept the things of the Spirit and is unable to understand (1 Cor. 2:14),
- darkened in his understanding (Eph. 4:17-19),
- cannot please God (Rom. 8:5-8).
Now back to the new birth. Those who believe that faith precedes regeneration must first deal with the explicit passages which deny that fallen man can do anything spiritually positive (e.g., Col. 2:14; Rom. 8:7-8; John 6:44). The question we must ask is, “Does God delight and is He pleased with repentance?” and then the negation of that in Romans 8:7-8. Fallen man, says Paul cannot—does not have the ability—to please God and submit to His Law. Is loving God above all else and your neig...