Do you need to know you have been regenerated before you can believe?

Glad Tidings, by Abraham Booth

“It is objected, ‘Though it be not necessary for a sinner to know that he is born again, before he believe in Jesus Christ, yet regeneration must precede faith. For the heart of a sinner being naturally in a state of enmity to the Divine Character, he will never turn to God, while in that situation, for pardon and acceptance.’ In answer to which, the following particulars are proposed for consideration.

Before this objection can be justly considered as valid, it must be
evinced, not only, that regeneration precedes faith; but also, that it is
necessary to authorise a sinner’s reliance on Jesus Christ: than which, few sentiments are more foreign from the genuine gospel.

[Theory:] Regeneration must precede faith. This, though assumed as a
certain fact, may be justly doubted: for the page of inspiration does not warrant our supposing, that any one is born of God, before he believe in Jesus Christ; or, that regeneration is effected by the Holy Spirit, without the word of grace. For we are taught, by the sacred writers, to consider the word of truth, with regard to adults, as the means of regeneration, and of many other happy effects. They teach, for instance,

That it is the instrument of enlightening the mind, of awakening the
conscience, and of softening the heart.

“The entrance of thy word giveth light” — Psalm 119:130.

“The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” — Ephesians 6:17.

“Is not my word like as fire? saith the Lord; and like a hammer, that
breaketh the rock in pieces?” — Jeremiah 23:29.

Compare 2 Corinthians 1:4, 5; Revelation 1:16, 2:12, l16; 19:15, 21. That it is the seed of regeneration.

“The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live” — John 5:25.

“The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” —
John 6:63.

“In Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel” — 1 Corinthians 4:15.

“Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures” — James 1:18.

“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the
word of God, which liveth and abideth forever” — 1 Peter 1:23.

That they only, who believe in Christ, are the children of God.

“As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” — John 1:12.

“Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” — Galatians
3:26.

That it is the mean, in the hand of the Spirit, of conversion, of
sanctification, and of salvation.

Of Conversion:

“The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul” — Psalm 19:7.

“He called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord
Jesus Christ” — 2 Thesssalonians 2:14.

Of Sanctification:

“He that received seed into the good ground, is he that heareth the Word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit” — Matthew 13:23.

“Ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you” — John 15:3.

“Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” — John 17:17.

“That they also might be sanctified through the truth” — John 17:19.

“God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed, from the heart, the model of doctrine into which ye were delivered” — Romans 6:17.

“The new man, which after God is created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” — Ephesians 4:24.

“The gospel, which is come unto you, as it is in all the world, and
bringeth forth fruit” — Colossians 1:5, 6.

“The word of God, which effectually worketh in you that believe” — 1
Thessalonians 2:13.

“You have purified your souls in obeying the truth, through the Spirit” –
1 Peter 1:22

Of Salvation:

“The gospel of Christ — is the power of God unto salvation, to every one that believeth” — Romans 1:16.

“The gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved” — 1 Corinthians 15:1, 2.

“The word, or doctrine of the cross, is to us who are saved the power of God” — 1 Corinthians 1:18.

“The engrafted word, which is able to save your souls” — James 1:17.”

page 122:

“Such is the language of inspiration, relative to the high importance of
revealed truth, in the great plan of salvation by Jesus Christ! Hence, it
appears, that few things are more evidently contained, or more strongly asserted, in sacred scripture, than the INSTRUMENTALITY OF DIVINE TRUTH IN RENEWING THE HEARTS OF SINNERS.

For it is there described as the honoured mean, as the seed of God ((1
Peter 1:23-25), by which the Holy Spirit effects regeneration, the
sanctification, and the consolation, of those that are saved.

But it is impossible for us to conceive of the mind being enlightened, of
the conscience being relieved, of the will being regulated, and of the
affections being purified by the word of truth, any further than it is
believed. It may therefore be concluded, that regeneration is not, in order of time, prior to faith in Christ, and justification by him. To contend, indeed, that regeneration must be prior to faith, and to justification, is like maintaining that the eldest son of a nobleman must partake of human nature, before he can have the filial relation to his father which constitutes him an heir to the paternal estate, and entitles him to those honours which are hereitary in the family. For the human nature, derived from his parents, and the relation of a son, being completely of the same date; there is no such thing as priority, respecting them, either as to the order of time, or the order of nature. THEY ARE INSEPARABLE, NOR CAN ONE EXIST WITHOUT THE OTHER.

Thus it is, I conceive, with regard to regeneration, faith in Christ, and
justification before God. For, to consider any man as born of God, but not as a child of God; as a child of God, but not as believing in Jesus Christ; as believing in Jesus Christ, but not as justified; or as justified, but not as an heir of immortal felicity; is, either to the last degree absurd, or manifestly contrary to the apostolic doctrine.

Consequently, as they are the ungodly whom the Spirit regenerates by the truth, so persons of that character are warranted to believe in Jesus.”

“This [regeneration] is wrought by the word. We are born again, not of
corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God. Wherein, not
only the thing itself, of our regeneration by the word, but the manner of it also, is declared. It is by the collation of a new spiritual life upon
us, whereof the word is the seed.

As every life proceeds from some seed, that hath in itself virtually the
whole life to be deduced from it, by natural ways and means; so the word in the hearts of men is turned into a vital principle, that, cherished by suitable means, puts forth vital acts and operations. BY THIS MEANS WE ARE BORN OF GOD, and quickened, who, by nature, are children of wrath; dead in trespasses and sins. So Paul tells the Corinthians, that he had begotten them, in Jesus Christ, by the gospel. It is the INSTRUMENT OF GOD for this end; and mighty and powerful, through God, it is for the accomplishment of it. (Owen on Hebrews 2:2, 3, 4, Vol. I, page 178).

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7 Comments on “Do you need to know you have been regenerated before you can believe?”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    Faith does not distinctly and appreciably precede regeneration, but
    accompanies it. It is not an instrument, a cause, or an effect of regeneration, but an invariable concomitant or condition of its process.
    Regeneration, as we have already seen, is God’s sovereign act, accomplished through the agency of the Holy Spirit and the instrumentality of truth. To
    suppose that justifying or sovereign faith is an effect of regeneration, or that, according to Andrew Fuller, it must arise from a disposition of the
    heart and can come only from a holy heart, is to suppose not only that a man may be regenerated without the instrumentality (i. e.,without truth
    which can effect him only through faith, may be created anew otherwise than in Christ Jesus); but that, being regenerated, he may yet be under
    condemnation, and the wrath of God may still be on him until his new
    disposition shall lead him to faith in Christ. But that faith accompanies
    regeneration, and the latter does not occur without the former, is evident when we remember that we are begotten, i. e., regenerated,” by the word of
    truth,”—language which can have no other meaning than that we are changed by the instrumentality of truth applied through the medium of faith. That such is the true relation of faith and regeneration seems to be taught clearly in John 3:5, 6, 10-15. This is clearly exhibited in 2 Peter, 1: 3; cf. 1 John 5 : 1. If such is the true relation of faith to the heart, then the subjective view should not be lost sight of.”

    “By faith in the divine promises- we are made partakers of the divine nature, 2 Peter, 1: 4.” (pg. 337, 38)

    Christian theology
    By Ezekiel Gilman Robinson
    Published by Press of E.R. Andrews, 1894

  2. Ezra Cayson Jr. Says:

    In what form is the gospel is the used as an instrument of the new birth? Reading the historical
    narrative in the actual gospels? a summarized gospel
    presentation? the meaning and significance of the life
    death and resurrection taught? What?

  3. markmcculley Says:

    any of those forms—hear the gospel on the radio, hear the gospel as you read the bible, most certainly does not need to be in a form of a clergyman or a sermon

  4. markmcculley Says:

    http://old-baptist-test.blogspot.com/2011/08/infant-hermeneutic.html

    http://baptistgadfly.blogspot.com/2006/07/chapter-ten-hardshellism-infant-idiot.html

    Robert Reymond, “I think I have shown that infants of believing parents are to be viewed as members of and under the governance and protection of Christ´s church and should be treated as such”¦Accordingly, all present at any and every infant baptism are admonished to “look back to their baptism,” to repent of their sins against the covenant, and to “improve and make right use of their baptism”¦the Directory [of Public Worship] envisions, as Jones rightly states, “a dynamic, life-long relationship between the infants saving faith and Christian walk, on the one hand, and his baptism on the other.” (A New systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, Pages 948-49)
    In the neglect of understanding the doctrine of “presumptive regeneration,” Charles Hodge said, “we have long felt and often expressed the conviction that this is one of the most serious evils in the present state of our churches.” (Bushnell´s discourses on Christian Nurture, Biblical Repertory and Princeton Review (1847), 19, Pages 52-521.)

    http://www.graceonlinelibrary.org/blog/presumptive-regeneration-in-the-reformed-tradtion-a-collection-of-quotes/

  5. markmcculley Says:

    Horton’s Covenant and Salvation, p 201–“John Murray’s notion of regeneration (as a new habit infused or implanted) before effectual calling (through the gospel’s forensic announcement) is what keeps justification (for John Murray) from being constitutive across the entire order of application.

    Institutes 4:17:5, Calvin—For there are some who define the eating of the flesh of Christ, and the drinking of his blood, to be, in one word, nothing more than believing in Christ himself. But Christ seems to me to have intended to teach something more express and MORE SUBLIME in that noble discourse, in which he recommends the eating of his flesh—viz. that we are quickened by the true partaking of HIM, which he designated by the terms eating and drinking, lest any one should suppose that the life which we obtain from him is obtained by simple knowledge.For as it is not the sight but the eating of bread that gives nourishment to the body, so the soul must partake of Christ truly and thoroughly, that by his energy it may grow up into spiritual life. According to them, to eat is merely to believe; while I maintain that the flesh of Christ is eaten by believing, because it is made ours by faith, and that that eating is the effect and fruit of faith.

    According to them, eating is faith, whereas it rather seems to me to be a consequence of faith. The difference is little in words, but not little in reality. For, although the apostle teaches that Christ dwells in our hearts by faith (Ephesians . 3:17), no one will interpret that dwelling to be faith All see that it explains the admirable effect of faith, because to faith it is owing that believers have Christ dwelling in them. In this way, the Lord was pleased, by calling himself the bread of life, not only to teach that our salvation is treasured up in the faith of his death and resurrection, but also, by virtue of true communication with him, his life passes into us and becomes ours, just as bread when taken for food gives nourishment to the body.

  6. markmcculley Says:

    John Owen: “1. Regeneration doth not in order of time precede the soul’s interest in the forgiveness that is with God, or its being made partaker of the pardon of sin. I say no more but that it doth not precede it in order of time, not determining which hath precedence in order of nature. Faith is the radical grace which we receive in our regeneration, for it is by faith that our hearts are purified in the hand of the great purifier, the Spirit of God, I place these two together, and shall not dispute as to their priority in nature; but in time the one doth not precede the other.

    2. It is hence evident, that an assurance of being regenerate is no way previously necessary unto the believing of an interest in forgiveness. When convinced persons cried out, “What shall we do to be saved?” the answer was, “Believe, and ye shall be so.” “Believe in Christ, and in the remission of sin by his blood,” is the first thing that convinced sinners are called unto. They are not directed first to secure themselves that they are born again, and then afterward to believe; but they are first to believe that the remission of sin is in the blood of Christ, and that “by him they may be justified from all things from which they could not be justified by the law.”

    Nor upon this proposition is it the duty of men to question whether they have faith or no, but actually to believe. And faith in its operation will evidence itself See Acts xiii. 38, 39. Suppose, then, that you do not know that you are regenerate, that you are born of God,-that you have no prevailing, refreshing, constant evidence or persuasion thereof,-should this hinder you? Should this discourage you from believing forgiveness, from closing with the promises, and thereby obtaining in yourselves an interest in that forgiveness that is with God? ” (Owen, Works, Volume 6, pages 597-598.)


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