THREE SIMPLE WORDS: Grace, Faith, Regeneration

I want to start out by asking a question. I’m just going to mention three simple words and I want you to put them in chronological order. While contemplating the order in which you believe these words should be placed, I ask you to truly question what the words actually mean. The words are:

1) Grace

2) Faith

3) Regeneration 

If you had to place a chronological order on those three words, what order would you put them in? In my personal experience, most people place them in the order of grace, faith, and then regeneration. The reasoning is that God must first give us grace but then we choose whether to accept His gift before any regeneration can occur. This is a false doctrine that has infiltrated the Church and confused many well intentioned believers; many of whom are not even aware they are confused. While I would never advocate for rejecting your fellow brother or sister in Christ over this, one should still be aware of the depth of this doctrine and how it lays the foundation for the understanding of who God is and what He has done for you. It is my hope that by the end of this article, you will be able to fully (or at least begin to) understand the proper order of these three words.

Grace is completely God’s doing. It is His unmerited favor toward His own and it is the backbone of our salvation. We are saved through grace (Acts 15:11), believe through grace (Acts 18:27), and are justified by grace (Romans 3:24). What a gracious God we serve (Psalm 86:15, Jonah 4:2)! Ephesians 2:8 tells us that we are saved through faith by grace. Grace has to take place before any faith can occur.

And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory,

Romans 9:23. NASB

God showered His grace upon us before the foundation of the world. Before anything ever was, He had a plan. Part of that plan was to call the vessels of mercy to Himself. Even while we were still enemies of God, He showed His love for us and lavished us with grace (Romans 5:8, Ephesians 1:8). The fact that grace comes first is not usually the part that confuses people. It is the proper order of faith and regeneration that gets sticky. As I have already stated, this is not the correct order at all.

God has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men, To see if there is anyone who understands, Who seeks after God. Every one of them has turned aside; together they have become corrupt; There is no one who does good, not even one.

Psalm 53:2-3, NASB

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.

Luke 9:23, NASB

While some claim a conditional statement implies a necessary choice, this is not always so. Oftentimes, as is the case here, it only necessitates a requirement. However, a requirement does not always necessitate an ability to fulfill it.

First of all, it is impossible for one to choose God. Before salvation, we serve the dominion of Satan (Acts 26:18). We are at war with God and hate Him (John 3:20a). Nobody chooses the enemy. Even the most infamous traitors in American history were not serving the enemy. They may have been OUR enemy, but they were not THEIR enemy. Whether it was money, allegiance, or some other common bond, our enemy had become their ally. In the same way, nobody who chooses God is an enemy of God at the time. In order for one to choose God, a change must first occur. There must be a common bond.

Scripture not only tells us we are at war with God, hate God, and belong to Satan, but it also takes it a step further by telling us we are dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1, Ephesians 2:5, Colossians 2:13). Opponents of pre-faith regeneration are forced to take verses such as these and manipulate them to say what they want. Even some of the staunchest literalists have changed these passages to say we are almost dead or are currently in a state of dying. This might sound nice except for one simple fact. It says we are already dead! The dead man does not choose to come back to life. Even Lazarus had no control over when he would be raised from the dead. In fact, Jesus left him there to rot for four days before raising him! Those who are spiritually dead can control when they are raised no more than Lazarus could.

But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.

1 Corinthians 2:14, NASB

We see this verse speaking of the natural man. The natural man is a man of his own desires. He is a man at war with God. He is the unregenerate man bound by the chains of sin who still serves the dominion of Satan. Scripture tells us plainly that this man cannot understand the things of the Spirit. However, the Christian is a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17). He is the regenerate man who has been set from the chains of sin. He has turned his eyes to the Light (Acts 26:18). He has been renewed, not on the basis of any righteous deeds we may have done but by the Holy Spirit through the washing of regeneration (Titus 3:5).

The Holy Spirit does not reside in the natural, unregenerate man. The Holy Spirit resides only in the regenerate. Our bodies are the very dwelling place of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). Having the Holy Spirit is synonymous with being saved. It is utterly impossible for a man to be saved without the Holy Spirit. It is equally as impossible for a man’s body to be the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit if he has not been regenerated. As a result, there is no way faith can come before regeneration. 

First, the grace of God is poured out to us. This occurred before the foundation of the world. Next, in God’s timing, we are washed anew and regenerated by the Holy Spirit. At this time, we become a new creature in Christ. We now possess the ability to understand the things of the Spirit because the Spirit resides within us. Lastly, faith occurs. It is only after grace and regeneration that one can truly have faith in God. That said, please don’t view this as a mechanical process of “if this, then that,” as that’s not what I’m implying. I am merely reviewing the logical order of salvation. In the practical sense, faith comes at the very moment of regeneration. There are no regenerate unbelievers. This is important to point out as it has been the victim of many a strawman. While we should all be pleading with unbelievers to choose this day whom they will serve (Joshua 24:15), this means the “choice” we made was not of some act of Libertarian Free Will but an irresistible calling of God Almighty, as He had already changed our very nature and desires. I am thankful for this because if it were up to me and my own works/choices, I would be left with nothing but filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6) and a lack of Christ. Soli Deo Gloria!

~ Travis W. Rogers

Discerning the Discerners

There are certain things in life most people enjoy. Within the church, those things tend to revolve around gospel preaching, friendly fellowship, and spiritual growth. On the flip side of the coin, there are things most people tend to dislike such as needless contention, unnecessary quarreling, and prideful know-it-all antagonists. On the internet, a person possessing these attributes is commonly referred to as a keyboard warrior and I think it’s safe to say most of us wish they’d just sit on their hands instead of typing.

As of recent, I’ve been paying more and more attention to an online polemical website called Pulpit & Pen. Perhaps you’ve heard of it. Truth be told, to a certain degree, this site has been on my radar for years. I used to view it as a valuable resource when it came to researching false teachers. Their no-holds-barred mentality was refreshing to see in the fight against doctrinal error and the stand for truth. After all, when war is constantly being waged on the truth, can we really sit by idly and watch it get pummeled with no recourse or consequence? However, I was also very different at that time. I was in the latter days of my Calvinistic “cage stage” and was beginning to see the ramifications of my over-the-top, no nonsense attitude. I began to see how I had caused many to become irritated with my rants and had begun to see me as divisive, however sincere I was in my efforts to show the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Simply put: a dangerous chapter in my life was coming to a close. No, it wasn’t a danger of spreading false teaching. It was a danger of causing harmful division by being so ready to label everybody a false teacher.

Looking back on this time in my life, while being ashamed, I also have a certain sense of appreciation for it. Having experienced such a mentality in my own life has given me a strong desire to stand for truth while also possessing a more mature mindset and method of execution. As I look upon solid teachers such as John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, and James White (to name only but a few), I see what standing for biblical truth should look like. It’s not about calling out error at all costs. It’s about standing for truth while being gracious to brothers and sisters in the Lord. Sometimes, a harsh rebuke is needed against blatant false teachers or heretics. There’s absolutely no denying that. After all, if one comes preaching another gospel, he is to be accursed (Galatians 1:8). However, there are many times where the situation isn’t quite as dire and gentle correction or even respectful discussion is more fruitful.

Sadly, this is a lesson certain writers of Pulpit & Pen have yet to learn. While still having many important things to say, it’s almost as if they’re in a perpetual “cage stage”. Instead of standing for truth, it appears as if they stand more for polemics and entering combat like a well-trained soldier. Whereas it used to be about warning others of real wolves in sheep’s clothing, it’s slowly morphed into an opportunity to find even the slightest bit of error (even if only perceived) and drop a nuke on it no matter the cost to unity in the

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body (Ephesians 4:2-3). Instead of waiting things out, giving brothers in the faith the benefit of the doubt, and seeing how things play out, we see harsh attacks that even go so far as saying such a brother has forsaken the gospel. In reality, it’s not much different than the tactics of mainstream media who are, oftentimes, too quick to release a story without having all (or any) of the facts and, in the end, they produce a retraction and apology for the misreporting. However, in the case of P&P, such retractions and apologies tend to be non-existent because their writers feel they have done no wrong. About a year ago, I had a personal interaction with one of the writers and I ended up having to walk away from it because it just wasn’t going to produce any fruit. Instead, I felt as if I were being trolled and antagonized while the other person clearly felt vindicated, justified, and “winning” the war on terror. It’s this sense of pride that underscores the writings of P&P. Instead of being gracious truth-seekers, they’re instead laced with pride, assaults, accusations, and defamation. Ultimately, it lacks Christ-like love and seeks to destroy anything in its sights. Heaven forbid I end up in their crosshairs for speaking against what feels like God’s anointed ambassador of discernment and eradicator of error. I may never see the end of it!

All this to say, I highly encourage everyone to go and read their articles. Don’t just take what I’m saying at face value (NOTE: Perhaps a good place to start would be THIS POST and THIS POST). I would be remiss if I failed to acknowledge that they have called out many heretics over the years. This isn’t the problem. The problem resides in where they fail to draw the line between heretics and brothers who may err on a particular topic. Sadly, this has become more and more commonplace. While there are some diamonds in the rough, much of it is just the rough without the diamond. In my previously referenced discussion, I was asked for specific examples of where I felt P&P had erred. To be honest, there’s just too much to list. On top of this fact, there are multitudes who have already dedicated too much time in providing requested examples. Hence, this article isn’t meant to change the mind of P&P as much as it is meant to encourage you, the reader, to discern the discerners. Everybody needs to be held in check, including those who deem themselves to be at the tip of the spear in calling out error. The spear just isn’t always necessary. We don’t always need to be waiting in the shadows, ready to strike at the first moment that someone says the wrong thing, uses the wrong verbiage, or takes a contrary position on a secondary issue just so you can know you reported on it before anybody else. This isn’t a spirit of discernment. It’s a spirit of strife laced with the poison of pride and arrogance. As for the specifics I mentioned earlier, it’s like being asked for specific examples of why a landfill stinks. Sometimes, it’s just the overall smell of garbage.

~Travis W. Rogers

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