Faith Precedes Regeneration

Most of the Calvinism vs. non-Calvinism debate falls on whether or not faith is before or after regeneration.

I will make the case that faith does in fact, precede regeneration.

The answer can be found and is found in looking at the individuals from the Old Testament to see how they were saved. There are only two options: they were either saved by works or by faith.

The Bible is very clear in Hebrews 11 that they were saved by faith and not of works.  Hebrews 11 is even called the “Hall of Faith”.  Having established this, we need to only look at how they were saved and did faith precede regeneration in their case.  If faith did precede regeneration in their case, then it is also of necessity that those in the New Testament were saved the same way – by faith.  If the New Testament saints were not saved the same way as the Old Testament faithful, we have erroneous and false doctrine: there are multiple ways people get saved which and some are saved by works and others saved by faith.

According to Hebrews 11, those who died in the Old Testament, died in faith waiting for the promise of the Messiah.  The last two verses of this chapter, 39-40 say:

“And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.”

Having read these verses, we need to ask a question:

How is it, the Old Testament saints have “faith” clearly in the passage and have not yet received the promise?

Also it clearly says that they will not be made perfect apart from us.  The author of Hebrews is clearly a New Testament believer who is saved after Christ has been crucified.  The author is clearly teaching that those in the Old Testament are saved the same way that those in the New Testament are saved as it says they are not made perfect apart from us.  So they are saved the same way that we are.

So the fact is, that no one can be made perfect apart from Jesus and His crucifixion.  Jesus dying on the cross, was the propitiation for sins.  Propitiation is necessary for someone to go to Heaven or you are teaching falsely.

Can one go to Heaven not having been made perfect in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross?   Or, can regeneration, which would be required to make one perfect, happen without the death of Jesus Christ?  NO!  If the answer were “Yes”, then why would Jesus have to go to the cross?  Furthermore, if your answer is “Yes” then the death of Jesus has been done in vain.

Now look at Hebrews 11:13:

“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of [them], and embraced [them], and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”

This is clearly their faith and they cannot have been regenerated prior to their faith, as Jesus has not yet died for their sins.  Or what Hebrews 11 clearly states: they had not received the promise yet.

Can you be regenerated before receiving the promise?  No.  There is no proof text in the Bible that regeneration precedes faith.  But we do have a proof text that faith belongs to man and it is accounted to him for righteousness in Romans 4:5.

Back in Hebrews 11:13 it says they were persuaded of the promise.  The Greek word for persuaded is “patho”.  It means “to persuade, to induce one by words to believe, to make friends of, to win one’s favour, gain one’s good will, or to seek to win one.”

Hebrews 11:13 again and how faith preceded regeneration in the Old Testament saints:

“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of [them], and embraced [them], and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”

Those in the OT had not yet seen the promise of the Messiah paying for their sins and so by their faith waited for regeneration.

Their faith, and I repeat, their faith, in the Old Testament was accounted to them for righteousness.

We also know that David from the Old Testament did not ascend into the Heavens according to Acts chapter 2.

We now have a proof text that David did not go to Heaven although he had faith in the promise of the Messiah.

Why did David not go to heaven? Because Jesus had not yet died and rose again to pay for the sins of those from the Old Testament.  Can you ascend to Heaven before Jesus died on the cross to pay for sins?  NO!  Again, if the answer is “Yes”, this puts the finished work of Jesus Christ to shame and you’re saying that “people happened to go to heaven without the cross?”  This is what the Calvinist believes.  NO!

Acts 2:34:

“For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand,”

In Acts 2:25-35, Peter is preaching about the death and resurrection of Jesus and the context is that David did not go to Heaven until the death of Christ.  This is made perfectly clear.  David did not ascend to Heaven but had to wait for the cross to pay for David’s sins.

Also, the same point is made and we have another proof text that David did not go to heaven until Jesus and the crucifixion as it says in Hebrews 4:7:

“Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”

Hebrews 4:8:

“For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day.”

Jesus did not give them rest in the old covenant.  He had to die for their sins first before they could enter in or be regenerated.

Where did the Old Testament saints go?

Luke 16:22-23:

“And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;  And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.”

They stayed in Abraham’s Bosom until Jesus set the captives free.

Isaiah 61:6, which is a Messianic prophecy.  It says about Jesus:

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD [is] upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to [them that are] bound;”

So Jesus had to proclaim liberty to the captives before they could be regenerated.

Confirmation of this is in the New Testament and is found in Ephesians.

Ephesians 4:8:

“Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.”

Ephesians 4:9

“Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?”

The New Testament confirms in fact that faith precedes regeneration as the Apostle Paul uses Abraham as an example. Galatians 3:6:

“Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”

Their faith was accounted to them for righteousness, before Jesus on the cross ever made it possible for regeneration to occur.  We even see the progression of things in Galatians 3:6, their belief and then accounted to them in the Old Testament for righteousness.

How was Abraham’s faith accounted to him for righteousness? Genesis 15:5:

“Then He brought him outside and said, ‘Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.’ And He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’”

Genesis 15:6:

“And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.”

This is definitely the promise of the Messiah and Abraham believed, and his belief was accounted to him.  It means exactly what it says – accounted.  He did not receive regeneration until Jesus came to pay for his sins.  Belief and faith are not works for salvation as they are used in scripture to teach what works are not.  Belief is not works as we see here in Romans 4 in the same account of Abraham.

Romans 4:3:

“For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’”

Romans 4:4:

“Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.”

Romans 4:5

But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,

Over and over we see this about those in the Old Testament.  Romans 4:5 says “his faith”. Why does the Calvinist keep twisting scripture to say it is not his faith.

“But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”

Could they have been regenerated in the OT?  No!  Verse 4 of Romans 4 says:

“Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.”

Their faith was accounted not as grace it clearly says because they still had debt because Jesus had not paid for their sins yet.  Can you have regeneration apart from Grace?  NO!  Because you cannot have grace apart from the cross!

Titus 2:11:

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,”

One could not go to heaven until grace appeared in the Person of Jesus Christ to make the way.

When was the debt paid and grace given?  Colossians 2:14:

“Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;”

So in conclusion: If the Jews were regenerated before Jesus died on the cross then they were saved by works and not grace alone.

If those in the Old Testament did not have to wait for the Messiah but were regenerated before the cross then this is of necessity salvation by works.

Those in the “hall of faith” were saved by faith not yet having received the promise (Hebrews 11).  They saw it afar off.

So when does the regeneration occur?  Titus 3:5:

“not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,”

The regeneration occurs emphatically only when the washing occurs in the blood sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.  There is your proof text.

If the Jews were regenerated before Jesus died on the cross for their sin then Jesus died in vain.  If those in the hall of faith did have to wait for Jesus as they did, then in fact faith does precede regeneration in the Old Testament, as is the case in the New Testament.  No one can be made perfect apart from Jesus and His crucifixion.  There are not two gospels.  One for the Old Testament and one for the New Testament.  There is only one gospel.  They were not made perfect apart from us.

Finally, how was the Holy Spirit working then in the Old Testament?  Well He was convicting of sin the same way He does today.  He was upon them.  He was with them.  He was in them only to prophecy or write scripture.  He was anointing them.  But He was not saving or regenerating them.  The Spirit left Saul.  David said take not thy Holy Spirit from me.  If this was saving and the Spirit could leave, and be taken away, then you cannot have the Perseverance of the saints.  Right? Therefore it was not regeneration.

1 Peter 1:10-12 teaches us that the prophet from the Old Testament prophesied that grace would come (verse 10).  Was in them testifying (not regenerating) that Christ would come to suffer (verse 11).  And revealed to them (revelation) not regeneration (verse12).  Since grace would come (verse 10), they could not be regenerated!

Steve Tassi


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