Why I Believe Regeneration Precedes Faith

The short answer is that scripture teaches it:

1 Corinthians 2:14

“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor 2:14)

A natural person, one born of flesh only, is incapable of understanding that which is spiritually understood. Salvation (repenting and believing the gospel) is a spiritual transaction that requires spiritual understanding, for which regeneration is an absolute requirement.

Romans 8:7-8

”For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Rom 8:7-8)

A mind can be fleshly (carnal), spiritual, or in the case of believers, in whom sin still resides, BOTH carnal and spiritual. The unbeliever is controlled by a fleshly mind and cannot please God. True repentance and belief in Christ pleases God, Therefore spiritual regenerating must precede faith.

Ephesians 2:1-5

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body[a] and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.[b] 4 But[c] God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—” (Eph 2:1-5)

What can a ‘dead’ man do? WHEN WE WERE DEAD, we who now believe were made alive in Christ. That’s the very definition of ‘regeneration’.

2 Corinthians 4:1-4

“Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God,[a] we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice[b] cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

Who is perishing? All who have not received and believed in Christ. Why have they NOT received and believed in Christ? Their minds have been blinded by the god of this world. Regeneration opens blind minds and necessarily precedes faith.

John 1:12-13

”But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)

The children of God are those who receive Christ and believe in his name. Those who receive and believe in Christ are those born of God, not by any form of human desire or will. To be born of God is to be regenerated. Note that no one is regenerated by an act of human will.

John 3:3

”Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.””

To ‘see’ the kingdom of God in the above passage means “to perceive” Just as we must have been born naturally to physically see, we must be born spiritually (regenerated) to spiritually see.

Those who believe that human faith precedes regeneration generally fall into two groups:

  • We are all ‘naturally’ capable, without divine assistance, to make a genuine decision for Christ, by an act of human free will.
  • While we aren’t ‘naturally’ capable of such a decision, God, by an act of ‘prevenient grace’, grants the ability to make a free will decision to accept Christ, and then be ‘regenerated’.

I believe the above passages refute the first proposition, on its face. I also believe the second proposition to be in error simply because prevenient grace, in the Wesleyan sense is nowhere taught in the Bible. The thought is that God bestows prevenient grace to the lost sinner, who is then able to consider the claims of the gospel message and either freely accept or reject them by an act of natural human will.

Additionally, I can find NO language in all of the Bible that discusses some sort of decision making process in the process of the salvation of men. Even IF true and a human free will decision determined the eternal destiny of anyone, that person will have saved himself/herself, although God made it possible to be saved through the death of Christ.

It is my belief, based on the above passages, that the human will must ‘itself’ be changed for the natural man to desire to repent of sin and believe in Christ.

_______________

NOTE: For more in-depth discussions concerning ‘Prevenient Grace’ See:

1. Does Scripture Teach Prevenient Grace n the Wesleyan Sense?

2. Is Prevenient Grace in the Bible?

3. What is Prevenient Grace?

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Moths & Roaches: Responding to the Light by Clint Archer

My dad was watching TV when he suddenly began shouting in pain. He then, just as suddenly, stopped and looked disoriented. This odd behavior repeated itself a few times. He told my mom that the recurring pain was accompanied by a loud, fluttering sound.

A tiny moth had inadvertently taken a wrong turn and ended up in the cul-de-sac of his eardrum.

Someone suggested flushing it out with water, but my mom wisely surmised that a dead moth in one’s ear was only marginally better than a live one. Instead, she came up with a brilliant idea…literally. She simply shone a powerful flashlight directly into my dad’s ear.

He seemed pleasantly surprised that no light shone out of the other ear, and he was visibly relieved as the little, shell-shocked moth crawled meekly toward the light and into freedom.

The moral of the story – when you find yourself stuck in a dark place, just head for the light.

3 Facets Of Responding To The Light Of Christ

  1. Rejection: The Roach Response

John 1:10-11 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.

When my wife and I were first married we lived in a roach-infested apartment building. The place looked clean and tidy but if you woke up in the middle of the night and turned on the light in the kitchen, the floor was alive with an assembly line of bustling cockroaches who, suddenly exposed in their dirty deeds, would scatter and disappear under the dishwasher, fridge, and cupboards.

Roaches hate the light.

And you know who else hates the light? …Everybody.

The Word went from being pure spirit, to taking on flesh, dwelling among the fallen cursed creation, walking with the very people who lived in darkness. And instead of receiving him, they rejected him, mocked him, accused him, arrested him, tortured him, and then they killed him.

Who are the “they”?  ……..Everybody.

Why? Because, spiritually speaking, we are all roaches who love darkness.

Jeremiah 13:23 Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil.

Romans 8:7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.

You can choose to sin with more or less vigor; you can choose to sin in a certain manner instead of another. You can worship an idol of your choosing, and you can choose which of God’s laws you disobey more than others. But you cannot employ your “free will” to choose God any more than an Ethiopian can use his free will to change his skin color, or a mind set on flesh can choose to submit to God’s law.

But, according to our verse, some people did receive the light, didn’t they?

The handful of disciples received the light as did the 120 in the upper room and the 3,000 who heard Peter’s first sermon. As well as many of the readers of this blog.

And why is that, if we are all naturally lovers of darkness?

  1. Reception, The Moth Response

John 1:12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,

We are not automatically God’s children. We need to be adopted into the family, or “given the right to become children of God.”

You are born a roach, but you can become a moth.

But why?

“Well,” you say, “I chose Jesus, I exercised my free will to make the right decision to trust in who he claimed to be and what he did for me.”

Okay, sure…but why?

Because the Spirit made my heart soft to the gospel.

But why? And why you?

Because I recognized that I was a sinner, a roach, and I recognized my need for a Savior.

Yes, friend, but why?

Why did you, of all people on this planet of 7 billion souls, receive the light?

Why do some roaches come to the light against their nature?

Answer: because they have been given a new mothy nature that loves the light.

WHY?

This brings us to….

  1. Reason For The Response

John 1:12-13 But to all who did receive him, 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.

There are 3 possibilities mentioned and rejected in verse 13 for why people get saved:

a) By blood, i.e. ancestry – the relationship to Abraham was not enough to save an Israelite; and your relationship to Christian parents is not enough either.

b) By the will of the flesh, i.e. your effort, your choice, your good works will not save you.

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

c) By the will of man: no man can declare you saved, no priest nor Pope, and not even your own free will.

So that leaves the only way to go from roach to moth—the will of God.

Many reject this, but our text clearly says that no one receives the light by any means except the will of God.

Let’s collect some corroborating testimony:

John 6:44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

Matthew 13:10-11 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.

Acts 13:48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.

You cannot escape the way the Bible presents the reason some people receive the light and others don’t. All are born roaches and only the will of God changes us into moths.

An application for us is to preach the gospel to all people with confidence. Give all glory to God for our salvation, keeping none for ourselves.

This world is dark, but the darkness is not able to overcome the light. Why? Because Jesus is the Light of the world, and he stepped down into darkness, to bear the wrath your sin deserved, and supply his righteousness so you can have the right to become a child of God.

How will you respond to the Light?

________

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Who really shared the gospel?

Here is an interesting tweet from a week ago by Jacob Denhollander, about whom I know next to nothing:

 image

I remember the accolades from fellow Christians when Mr. Pratt was lauded for mentioning God in a public forum, and the MTV awards at that. I also remember wondering if he said more about the gospel than “God is real. God loves you. God wants the best for you. Believe that. I do.”, which is what I heard in the short clip I watched. I also wondered if I was just making an observation or being intentionally overly critical. After all, when anyone mentions God in a public forum it’s a good thing.

Next we have Mike Pence at the recent Southern Baptist Convention in which he gave a commendable speech in praise of Southern Baptists and their efforts to advance the gospel through the years. He also shared a bit of personal testimony about something that happened to him 40 years ago, when he heard a particular message:

“God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever might believe in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life.” And I walked the sawdust trail that night in 1978 and gave my life to Jesus Christ, and it’s made all the difference.

So back to  the question at hand. Who shared a more clear gospel message, Chris Pratt or Mike Pence? I’ll leave that to you – I am eager to hear your responses.

I do however have a couple of other questions to ask that are also worthy of comment and discussion.

1. Is Mr. Denhollander’s sentiment that Chris Pratt presented a clearer gospel message than Mike Pence a widely held belief among today’s evangelicals, and if so, WHY?

2. Do YOU believe Mr. Denhllander’s comment to be true, and if so, WHY?

3. Do we evangelicals sometimes make TOO much of a celebrity mention God in public than we ought, and if that’s true, is there a bit of idolatry in play here?

Just rambling questions of an old soldier. . . . let’s talk about it anyway.

🙂

What’s in YOUR Eternity?

In a recent Sunday School lesson in 1 Peter, the question was asked “When you hear someone say “The end of the world is near” how do you respond, and why?”

I could say, “Why do you ask?” Knowing why the comment was made just might help guide the conversation along it’s path, especially if your desire is to steer it toward the message of the gospel.

Given that the topic is the end of the world, I could get straight to the point and ask, “What’s in YOUR eternity?”

First, phrasing it more like a credit card commercial might elicit a more positive response than just asking “Where’s your soul going when you die?” like the sidewalk Christian evangelist downtown handing out tracts to young soldiers out for a good time in Junction City, Kansas, outside of Fort Riley Kansas  (deja vu). I could claim just about any religion and ask my question. Without being overly blunt, my question assumes that, like a credit card, everyone has an ‘eternity’. Every major religion believes we will eventually spend eternity somewhere. You can check it out. We have the technology.

My goal is to present the Christian view of eternity in a loving manner, using the Bible as my source document.

The Bible tells us that there is something about ‘eternity’ in each and every one of us:

He (God) has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11) (Emphasis mine)

John MacArthur says of this passage:

“God. put eternity into man’s heart. God made men for his eternal purpose, and nothing in post-fall time can bring them complete satisfaction.”

Our innate sense of eternity comes from knowing something of God, the eternal creator. Concerning this knowledge of God, there is perhaps no clearer verse in all of scripture than Romans 1:19, in which the Apostle Paul tells us:

“For what can be known about God is plain to them (men), because God has shown it to them.”

We all know something about God and eternity, although what we know is limited. I believe this knowledge is part of the ‘imago dei’, the image of God, in which we were created. God IS eternal, and although our bodies will one day die, we have an innate interest in life after death.

Here’s where the conversation can get a bit more challenging. You see, along with being told that we all know that God IS, we are also told something about those who try and deny the existence of God. Immediately before Romans 1:19 we are told:

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” (Romans 1:18)

So what’s this about “The wrath of God”? We can turn to Matthew, Chapter 25 and Jesus’ teaching about His second coming and the final judgment of all men.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.

Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.

And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

. . . .

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,

I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’

Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’

Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’

And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

(Matthew 25:31-34 & 41-46)

In the above verses, there are two groups of people, the ones on Jesus’ right, and the ones on Jesus’ left. The ones on Jesus’ right represent those who knew and loved Him in this life and those on Jesus’ left represent those who denied Him in this life. Those on the right will inherit the kingdom prepared for them from the world’s beginning. Those on the left will experience eternal fire reserved for the devil and his angels.

SO WHAT?

1. There are two groups of people inhabiting this world; those who have received the truth of God and the ones who suppress the truth of God; the ones who have repented of their sin and believed the gospel and the ones who have rejected Christ.

2. There is an eternal destiny for every human being who ever lived or is living today; eternal life or eternal death.

3. What’s in YOUR eternity, my friend?

Is God Reckless?

I saw that question on a Facebook post a couple of weeks ago, connected to the recently released Bethel Music song “Reckless Love”, written by Cory Asbury. Apparently it hit the top of some Christian music charts but has also garnered quite a bit of dialogue, some of which is helpful and some decidedly not so much.

Nevertheless, the above question is quite valid and deserving of discussion, at least when examined in light of what scripture teaches us about the nature of God’s love.

Here are the song’s lyrics:

[Verse 1]
Before I spoke a word
You were singing over me
You have been so, so
Good to me
Before I took a breath
You breathed Your life in me
You have been so, so
Kind to me
[Chorus]
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
I couldn’t earn it
I don’t deserve it
Still You give yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
[Verse 2]
When I was your foe, still Your love fought for me
You have been so, so
Good to me
When I felt no worth
You paid it all for me
You have been so, so
Kind to me
[Bridge]
There’s no shadow You won’t light up
Mountain You won’t climb up
Coming after me
There’s no wall You won’t kick down
No lie You won’t tear down
Coming after me

To be fair, the song speaks well of God’s love, calling it overwhelming and never-ending. We can’t earn it and we don’t deserve it. God, through Christ the good Shepherd, seeks and saves the lost. God loves his own even when they are his enemies living in rebellion against him. And Jesus did pay the ultimate price, sinless and underserving, dying in place of sinners – absorbing the full weight of God’s just wrath against our sin.

But is the love of God for his own reckless’? The song’s claim that it is deserves closer examination, but not from our gut level emotions, which seem to have prompted the ongoing banter both, pro and con. We need to examine what the Bible has to say about God’s love to determine if the ‘reckless’ adjective is as well-deserved as the other descriptions “Reckless Love” presents to us. After all, it’s the adjective used in the song’s title and the author’s main point!

Here is the author’s response to many of the comments made about his song, as an attempt to clarify what he meant by calling God’s love ‘reckless’:

“When I use the phrase, “the reckless love of God”, I’m not saying that God Himself is reckless. I am, however, saying that the way He loves, is in many regards, quite so. What I mean is this: He is utterly unconcerned with the consequences of His actions with regards to His own safety, comfort, and well-being. His love isn’t crafty or slick. It’s not cunning or shrewd. In fact, all things considered, it’s quite childlike, and might I even suggest, sometimes downright ridiculous. His love bankrupted heaven for you. His love doesn’t consider Himself first. His love isn’t selfish or self-serving. He doesn’t wonder what He’ll gain or lose by putting Himself out there. He simply gives Himself away on the off-chance that one of us might look back at Him and offer ourselves in return.”

Again, to be fair, there is truth in this explanation, especially the descriptions of what God’s love is NOT. It’s the summary of God’s love that is problematic for many, including me:

“He (God) simply gives Himself away on the off-chance that one of us might look back at Him and offer ourselves in return.”

Is that a Biblically supportable description of God’s love? While there is much in scripture that would answer with a resounding ‘no’, we offer a short passage from the book of Romans that should settle the matter:

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Rom 8:29-30)

That short passage speaks of intentionality, not recklessness. It describes deliberate actions of God toward his people! It describes the people of God from a point in eternity past and God’s foreknowledge through ultimate glorification in the presence of God for the rest of eternity.

I also offer to you that both major schools of theology (Calvinist & Arminian) are in complete agreement concerning God’s love being intentional and not at all reckless! Either God ‘foreknew’ his people in such an intimate way that he sovereignly changes their human will, causing their greatest desire to be to receive Christ when confronted with their sin (Calvinists), or he foreknew the ‘free will’ decisions many would make for Christ at some point in their lives.

Either way, God’s love is not ‘reckless’, as Corey Asbury describes recklessness! And because the song’s lyrics speak so much truth about God’s love, I cannot help but wonder why he thinks that God loves recklessly. It’d s popular sentiment among certain segments of evangelicalism. And that saddens me. Is my criticism justified? I believe it is. I also know that we should pray for Corey, his spiritual growth and ministry. Add to that prayer the thousands of young people who have been and are being terribly deceived by all the false teaching that Bethel Redding represents.

“He will save his people from their sins.”

The Battle Cry

18Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:18-21 ESV)

I love these few words that the angel of the lord spoke to Joseph:

“for he will save his people from their sins.”

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8 implications of calling Jesus “Lord” by Jesse Johnson

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I recently preached 2 Corinthians 4:5 (“We do not breach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord”), and in preparation I came across this powerful list of 8 implications of preaching Jesus as Lord. These are from Murray Harris’s New International Greek Testament Commentary (p 332), where he writes:

Whenever worshiping Christians repeat the church’s confession “Jesus is Lord,” they are:

1. Implying that the Christ of faith was none other than the Jesus of history (Acts 2:34–36),

2. acknowledging the deity of Christ (John 20:28; Phil. 2:6, 9–11),

3. admitting the Lord’s personal rights to absolute supremacy in the universe, the church, and individual lives (Acts 10:36; Rom. 10:12; 14:8; 1 Cor. 8:6; Jas. 4:15),

4. affirming the triumph of Christ over death and hostile cosmic powers when God raised him from the dead (Rom. 10:9; 14:9; Eph. 1:20–22; Col. 2:10, 15) and therefore also the Christian’s hope of resurrection (1 Cor. 6:14; 2 Cor. 4:14),

5. epitomizing the Christian message (Rom. 10:8–9; 2 Cor. 4:5) and defining the basis of Christian teaching ( Col. 2:6–7),

6. declaring everyone’s accountability to the Lord, the righteous judge (1 Cor. 4:5; 2 Tim. 4:1, 8),

7. making a personal and public declaration of faith (Rom. 10:9), which testifies to their being led by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:3), and

8. repudiating their former allegiance to many pagan “lords” and reaffirming their loyalty to one Lord through and in whom they exist (1 Cor. 8:5–6; 1 Tim. 6:15).

It is good to be reminded that “Lord” is more than a title, and more than a name. It reveals the identity of Jesus, and compels a response from us that is more than simply a phrase we say–ie. there is more at stake here than saying “Jesus is Lord.” That phrase implies so much, that when rightly understood it alters our worldview.

Salvation Can only be Found in Christ

by Martin Luther

“…The devil does not intend to allow this testimony about Christ.  He devotes all his energy to opposing it and will not desist until he has struck it down and suppressed it.  In this respect, we humans are weak and stubbornly perverse and are more likely to become attached to saints than to Christ.  Within the papacy they have preached about the service rendered by these beloved saints, that one ought to rely on their merit.

And I, too, believed and preached thus.  St. Ann was my idol, and St. Thomas my apostle.  I patterned myself substantially after them.  Others ran to St. James and strongly believed and firmly trusted that, if they conformed, they would received all they wished and hoped for.  Prayers were said to St. Barbara and St. Christopher in order to avert an early and sudden death, and there was no uncertainty here.  So completely is man by nature bent on renouncing this testimony of John the Baptist.

For this reason it is necessary constantly to persevere and adhere to John’s testimony concerning Christ.  For it requires toil and effort to continue with word and testimony, for a person at death to be able to say, I must die, but I have a Savior concerning whom John the Baptist testifies; on him and on no other creature, either in heaven or on earth, do I rely.  However, that a person can die as cheerfully by believing in St. Barbara, in an indulgence, or in a pilgrimage to Rome, as in the man to whom alone John the Baptist points, is out of the question.  Also, that a person can build as strongly on monkery or monastery life as on holy baptism is a forlorn hope.

“What I am telling you is that it is easier for us humans to believe and trust in everything else than in the name of Christ, who alone is all in all, and more difficult for us for us to rely on him in whom and through whom we possess all things.”

Quotes are excerpted from volume five of Luther’s 7-volume set of sermons (page 79).

Why Some People Reject Jesus

By Scott Redd, Tabletalk Magazine

As an anthology, the four Gospels reveal two complementary responses to the person of Jesus Christ. Some people are inexplicably drawn to Jesus while others are just as inexplicably repelled by Him.

Philip is an example of the former. He leaves behind his livelihood to follow this itinerant preacher who beckons him to “follow me” (John 1:43). No questions. He just follows.

The crowds and disciples described in John 6:60–66 represent the latter.

When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. (John 6:60–66)

Having left their homes to follow Jesus and His teaching, the crowds already know that He preaches like no other rabbi and that He can handle adversity with insight and authority. They have seen Him perform miracles that defy explanation and point to deeper truths about His identity and purpose.

In spite of all of this, when they hear Jesus preach that God the Father and the Holy Spirit are integral to their coming to faith in Him, they leave in droves.

This passage deals with the inner spiritual dynamics of conversion. It is about the spiritual reality of coming to faith, the divine hand behind the act of believing in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Three Aspects of Conversion

From this passage, we learn about three significant aspects of conversion to Jesus Christ.

First, belief is more than swearing membership to a group. Saving faith is more than saying the right words, more than following Jesus in His teaching ministry and counting yourself as one of His disciples. The disciples who abandon Jesus in John 6 had previously given the impression that they were His followers—they had left their homes and jobs to travel with someone the religious authorities claimed was a fool, or worse, a madman. Even though they had given up so much, they were not ready for the heart of the gospel. Perhaps they accepted the teaching of Jesus the rabbi, but they did not accept the teaching of Jesus the divine Son.

Second, hypocrisy is common in gospel community, even when Jesus is the preacher. The church will always be filled with broken people, some of whom are drawn by the Spirit to repentance and faith, and others who are drawn by their sin to hardness and nominalism. Pastors and church leaders must remember that they are always preaching and teaching to a mixed audience. The best way to serve that audience is to lovingly, confidently, and prayerfully teach the whole counsel of God from the Scriptures.

Third, saving faith is the result of the Holy Spirit’s giving life more than it is the result of collecting empirical evidence. Jesus says: “Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all” (John 6:62–63). To be sure, Christians should present the gospel in a way that is contextually sensitive, and yes, evangelists should seek to remove any offense that is not intrinsic to the gospel message. But Jesus is saying that He could take to flight before their eyes and His audience would still not believe if the Spirit did not regenerate their hearts and minds. Conversion is the work of the Spirit in attendance with gospel proclamation. Reason, experience, and imagination all play a role in salvation, but if the Spirit does not give life, saving faith will not result.

Comfort and Challenge

We should find comfort in the necessary role of the Spirit in our evangelistic efforts. Many will patiently listen to our gospel message only to politely walk away without a moment’s hesitation. We should always check our hearts and methods when this happens, but we should also remember that people walked away from Jesus as well.

We should be challenged when we realize that a person’s response to the gospel is ultimately out of our hands. Every Christian has someone in their lives who they believe could never come to saving faith. Jesus’ teaching in John 6 is proof that no one can escape the life-giving work of the Spirit if it is willed by the Father. Who are we to doubt the power of regeneration in the lives of those around us?

The Trinity and Evangelism

Last, don’t miss the Trinitarian tone of John 6 and how it helps us keep a balanced view of evangelism and salvation. No one receives the Son unless the Spirit gives life, as it is granted by the Father.

Keeping this Trinitarian foundation in view protects us from two common errors, one that sees conversion as arbitrary and the other that sees it merely as a matter of persuasion. Because the Father directly grants salvation according to His good pleasure, it is the least arbitrary of all human experiences. Because salvation relies on the regeneration of the Spirit, we know that conversion rests on something other than a well-framed sales pitch.

I’ll conclude with a third error that this Trinitarian teaching helps us avoid. Because of the revelation of the Son, we should resist the error that leads us to complacency in evangelism. In His humiliation and exaltation, the Son provided the groundwork for our redemption. As a result, for those who are in Him, there is every reason to proclaim His gospel with confidence in the light of our Trinitarian faith.

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Dr. Scott Redd is president and associate professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.