Salvation involves the redemption of the whole man, and is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer. In its broadest sense salvation includes regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification. There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.
A. Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God’s grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace.
Basically, there are two primary interpretations as to the how and when one is “born again” or regenerated, and both are related to belief, repentance and faith. One posits being born again as being essential for belief, repentance and faith to take place; and the other makes belief, repentance and faith essential for being born again.
What does the BF&M say regeneration is? 1) a work of grace whereby believers become new creatures 2) a change of heart wrought (past tense and a past participle of work) through conviction. It is a work of the Holy Spirit who changes the unconvinced heart of an unbelieving sinner to a convicted heart of a believing sinner who responds in repentance toward God and faith in Jesus. Even if one wants to make conviction moving a person toward the truth and a sense of guilt of sin, the question is still who works it. The BF&M states about the work of the Holy Spirit:
Through illumination He enables men to understand truth. He exalts Christ. He convicts men of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. He calls men to the Saviour, and effects regeneration. At the moment of regeneration He baptizes every believer into the Body of Christ. He cultivates Christian character, comforts believers, and bestows the spiritual gifts by which they serve God through His church. He seals the believer unto the day of final redemption. His presence in the Christian is the guarantee that God will bring the believer into the fullness of the stature of Christ. He enlightens and empowers the believer and the church in worship, evangelism, and service.
What does Scripture say:
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Are you so foolish (anoetos)? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?
It is not man who is doing any of this. It is being a fool, Paul said, to think so.
What is the order in the BF&M, then? God by grace works regeneration -a change of heart- convicting of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance and faith. He baptizes (seals them) into the body of Christ and then seals them as the guarantee of ongoing sanctification to complete maturity and salvation of the final redemption. What is Bob’s order: repentance and faith is necessary prior to one being born again. To reiterate, the BF&M places “It” (being born again; a change of heart), prior to repentance and faith. In accord with that the BFM places illumination and enablement by the Holy Spirit prior to repentance and faith. Who is working the enablement and the illumination? And where? The Holy Spirit by his presence in the Christian.
To make no mistake about what he is speaking of, Bob states:
One thing appears clear: apart from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit or ones being “in Christ” there is no new birth or regeneration… Clearly to be born again one MUST have the Spirit living in his heart for if one does not have the Spirit in his heart that one does not belong to God. Regeneration is not possible apart from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
He then asks:
So the question now is this: does the Holy Spirit take up residence in the heart of the unregenerate so that he is able to believe, repent and be saved or does the Holy Spirit take up residence in the heart of an individual who has believed, repented and is then saved?
But as is seen in the BF&M the order is established- by the grace of God the Holy Spirit’s presence within changes the hearted, the believer is enabled, illumined, so as to understand. Which in turn, through conviction the sinner responds in repentance and faith. The BFM has already defined salvation broadly, and not narrowly as Bob has done. To be saved includes far more than Bob can allow, quoting the BFM:
In its broadest sense salvation includes regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification.
Again, note the order. Regeneration comes before justification. Scripture identifies the order of justification this way:
For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
Regeneration, the BF&M states, is the beginning of sanctification by which the believer is set apart to God’s purposes… So we need to ask, is faith set apart for God’s purposes in the believer, nor not? Is faith part of sanctification. Which comes first, a new heart which believes, or belief from an unchanged heart?
The question that should be asked is does the Holy Spirit take up residence in an unregenerate heart at all? That is, if as Bob says the Holy Spirit’s indwelling and regeneration are inseparable realities, in which he is right, how could it ever be that the Holy Spirit takes up residence in an unregenerate heart so that it is convinced to turn on its own?
First of all, Bob presents a canard. No Calvinist believes that the Holy Spirit takes up residence in the unregenerate so that he will do what is required by the commandment to repent and believe. Calvinists believe that in regeneration the Holy Spirit is resident in the newly created heart. We also need to ask, can an unbelieving heart believe? Bob believes so. The self-contradiction is obvious. For those who are, borrowing the term Jesus used, anoetos (not understanding, unwise, foolish), the answer is no! Unbelievers, by the very nature of unbelief, don’t believe. By the testimony of Scripture, an unbeliever cannot be saved, period. How does one who has not had a change of heart (the BF&M’s definition of regeneration) from an unbelieving one to a believing one, believe? Again, for the anoetos, he can’t. Or, quoting Romans 8 where Bob conveniently didn’t:
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. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
How does a hostile, unbelieving heart, submit? Paul says, it cannot. It will not obey the commands such as repent and believe. So we ask also, can an unbeliever please God? Or, can only a believer? And who is he who can believe? The BF&M is clear, only those who have had a change of heart, who are set apart for God’s purposes can believe. Interestingly, the section on regeneration in the BF&M is supported by Philippians 2:12-13 in which it is clearly stated that God works in us the things which are pleasing to God and John 1:11-14, where we find that those who received Christ were those who were born of God. They didn’t receive him and then were born of God. The BF&M’s own quotations refute Bob’s intentions. If Bob would have further developed Romans 8 he would find that the setting apart for God’s purposes, as the BF&M’s consideration of the grace points out, is part of the whole package of election (i.e. salvation) which includes regeneration and all other means of accomplishing it. It is consistent with free agency because man in bondage to sin while unregenerate has no means of moral choice by which he can submit himself to the commandments of God. The BF&M delcares that the illumination by the Holy Spirit establishes truth in man and by that working of conviction man is set free to do what God has commanded.
Consider the following passages. At Pentecost, “Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’”
But this is misdirection. The manifestation of the Spirit given on Pentecost is not the indwelling. Peter and the others who were with Jesus prior to his crucifixion and after his resurrection already were indwelt by the Spirit, yet the gift Peter is speaking of is “this which was spoken by the prophet Joel… which also was given to Peter on Pentecost. So why quote it here? It is a non-sequitur. But since Bob’s motives are at best questionable, we can ask if it is sleight of hand meant to distract weak-minded anoetos.
“By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God”
But why didn’t he quote: “Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.”
“The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’ (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’”
So we ask, how can one call upon the name of the Lord and be saved except that he already has the Holy Spirit? Again, for the anoetos, he can’t. He must be regenerated, and in regeneration have the Holy Spirit before he can call upon the name of Jesus as Lord and be saved. For no one, not anyone, zero, zip, nadie sin excepciones, calls upon the Lord who does not have the Spirit.
But Bob says:
Conversion is the result of the Holy Spirit taking up residence in a person’s heart and that takes place after one believes, repents and confesses Christ.
Again, this is a canard. Calvinists speak of conversion as the outward manifestation of the inward change (a lot like the BF&M). That is, salvation is much broader than Bob seems to have any concept of and begins with regeneration through the hidden work of the Spirit as John 3 explains. It is demonstrated by the fruit it produces, or as John 3 says, we don’t see wind coming or going but we know it by its effects. Conversion, like salvation is a continuum of events some hidden, others obvious. Typically, the outward work is what is acknowledged as conversion (which fits into the category of sanctification), and regeneration is that which cannot be seen and as the BF&M and Scripture testify come before a man’s understanding is opened so that he sees the kingdom and embraces it. When John says that God has blinded the eyes of some so that they cannot see and be converted, (John 12:40; cf Isaiah 6:9-10), the Greek word, which means to turn around, as in repent, is in the passive voice. In other words, conversion, according to John, is something which is being done to those who are turning around. What else should we expect from John who wrote that Jesus said without being born again, one cannot see, that is understand, the kingdom?
To clarify language, when speaking of being saved we acknowledge the inception, the process, and the consummation:
And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
So one is said to be saved in the beginning and to be saved throughout and saved in the end. Bob doesn’t make the proper clarification and so, again, he presents a canard by conflating meaning to the point of utter confusion.
So Bob continues to confuse the issues:
Consider Paul’s word of instruction in Ephesians 1: “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory” (see also 2 Co 1:20-22). Clearly the sealing of the Holy Spirit takes place after one has heard the Word of truth presented in the proclamation of the gospel message and has believed it.
Yes, let’s do. What is the sealing spoken of here? Is it the indwelling? It doesn’t say that. The Holy Spirit’s work is varied. For our comfort, according to many places, such as 1 Cor 2, we are told we have been given the Spirit so that we might know the things God has freely given us and knowing the truth we would be set free and no longer fear the wrath of God. 1 Cor 2 says that we have received the Spirit, not that we should fear, but so that we can discern the truth, understanding the things which God has freely given. It also says that the natural man does not have the Spirit and so cannot discern the truth. But, if that is the case, then how does he place his faith in what he doesn’t know to be the truth and turn around, convert, from unbelief to belief? What faith looks to darkness for light? John writes that these things were written that we might know. But, Paul says, only those who have the Spirit can know the things which were written. Jesus said only the disciples know and that all the rest have been blinded so that they would not convert (repent) and believe. So, when the Holy Spirit, as Jesus said, brings to our minds the things he has said, the Holy Spirit seals the truth to our minds. But, he only does that for those to whom it has been given, to those outside it remains a mystery. And this is our comfort, that as Paul, we know him in whom we have believed, not that we first believe and then know him. First, though, before we can know, and knowing repent and believe, we must have the Holy Spirit.
We also speak of the sealing of the Holy Spirit in another way. We speak of it in adoption. That having been made partakers of the divine nature, we are inextricably bound to Christ by the Holy Spirit. But, what we have been made to be in this latter sense is given in regeneration, the former is given in sanctification. The latter is what would include definitive sanctification and justification though faith which is the whole of salvation given as righteousness by union with Christ which seals us to Christ. The former is progressive sanctification which includes all the works we are active in, and justification through believing in which the believer is also active through the power of the Spirit performing those things in him which are pleasing to God. The power of the Holy Spirit acts in believers as the confirming signature by which the saints persevere to the end and inherit the promise. As there is a nuance to the terms used in Scripture, such as saved, salvation, redeemed, redemption, and the myriads of ways we use those terms in doctrinal discussion, there is a variety of ways the terms seal or sealed is used. To seal can mean to bind together, or it can mean to affix a mark as in a signature or deed of ownership.
Then again, even if there is a more nuanced way in which Ephesians 1:13 can be understood, there is a sense in which some or all the aspects of one nuance of the whole of our salvation are true of others. Notice that in Ephesians we have a future redemption. But, is it not the fact that those who are believers are redeemed now? There is a comprehensiveness expressed in Ephesians from first to last, from predestination to consummation. Beside, the phrase, “having believed, you were sealed,” is not necessarily rendered correctly. “Having believed is an aorist participle and could well be translated, believing. And “were sealed” is in the aorist indicative and could be rendered “being sealed.” Thus, it could say, you believing being sealed… So simply, it could just mean that believing is the seal of the Holy Spirit’s working. And if we go to Ephesians 1:20 we find the current condition of believers as now seated in the heavenlies which is the future state as considered in the past and present. This is ongoing work, and not simply the initiatory work. In both the believing and the sealing in Ephesians 1:13, the full sense of the aorist tense needs to be considered. The sense of all of Ephesians is forgone conclusion from predestination to consummation. That is, that it began, is ongoing and has futurity. It moves from the grounding purpose to infancy, to maturity, to standing in the end. So again, it is not necessarily right to fix a cemented sequence to the verbage, especially in view of the wide application of the tenses being used and with the full mind’s eye on all that Ephesians is about.
We can add to this Abraham’s faith. Was righteousness imputed to him because he believed, or was believing imputed to him as righteousness? When we look at Ephesians 2:8-9 we find that faith, though it may not be directly the gift referred, is nonetheless, a part of salvation given by God. And it is not a verb, it is a noun just as in Romans 4:9. Since the righteous live by faith, and Jesus concludes that man lives only by the word of God, it is not a stretch to conclude that faith is God’s grace provision as the full provision of all that is meant by the promise of salvation. That faith is righteousness is further confirmed by the fact that it is the very nature of the Son’s life, especially displayed on the cross. His entire life is that faith in which we are given Ephesians says in such a way so that we are in him by virtue of his resurrection (see Peter 1:3). And further, the proper way of believing is shaped by Jesus’s own faith in his Father to whom he entrusted his spirit. To say then that God enables faith in all men though they themselves remain not submitted to God, dishonoring the Son until they act on it, is to mingle the meaning of faith with faithlessness. It pollutes the kind of faith Jesus had. Jesus did not move from being an unbeliever to a believer, nor was he a mixture of doubts, rather, he was the firstfruit of the faith, and we are made after his image, as he said, born from above, John 3:3; John 17. If one makes faith a neutrality which can at once mean to believe or not to believe, faith simply has no meaning. It is no wonder then that Bob believes that an unbeliever can believe. That is to say, Bob believes that an unbeliever can be saved, thus making nonsense of John 3:16-18. We must first be raised from the dead, the power of God’s love in us as it was in Christ, by which, as the Son did, we sons cry Abba.
In Ephesians, it is best, probably, to understand that the Holy Spirit seals to our minds the knowledge of this comprehensive promise which is mentioned, as is clear in 1 Cor 2,through the word taught to spiritual men by the Spirit. Or, it might be said that this is the hope of glory which is in us, the Holy Spirit who, as with the disciples, was given after the disciples had already seen the risen Lord and had already believed, who brings to our minds the things Jesus said. As he said he would not leave them orphans but would send the comforter as the one who comes alongside as an aid in weakness, so also, even though by virtue of regeneration we have the Holy Spirit indwelling us as they did, Jesus further aids us by sending the Holy Spirit to teach, guide, and comfort. There is no reason to conflate the meaning of what the operation of the Holy Spirit is in grounding our hope in the promise of Scripture as a seal with the initial work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration which seals us to Christ. Because again, Scripture is so nuanced as to have, often, both near reference and far. The verse in Ephesians 1:13 proves no sequence of events, necessarily, especially in view of the comprehensive nature of the near context, and of broad category of salvation as it is spoken of throughout Scripture.
there is no ambiguity in the Scriptures where the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is concerned with respect to being born again or being regenerated. Regeneration is not possible apart from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God’s gift to those who have believed and have repented and trusted God by faith (Acts 2:38).
As I said before, the manifestations of the Holy Spirit are not the indwelling. The apostles already had the indwelling when the Holy Spirit’s gift spoken of in Acts 2 was given. The ambiguity is in Bob’s head where he conflates one meaning with another. In other parts of Acts it is clear that the Holy Spirit came upon those who already believed:
And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.(Acts 4:29-31)
By Bob’s formulation, Peter was born again, and born again, and born again. For when Jesus spoke to the apostles after his resurrection John writes:
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. (John 20:22)
The there is this:
And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.
And we must ask, when did John the Baptist believe? Before or after he was filled with the Holy Spirit? Surely not before. It could only be that after he was enlightened that he believed for he had to be old enough to understand. Yet, we have the testimony that he was filled before he was born.
Bob concludes his conclusion:
While some may try to make a case for a temporal or logical position for regeneration preceding repentance and the exercise of saving faith, such is not the case for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
As we have just seen, this is not the case. Bob is just confused about the indwelling.
Since regeneration is not Scripturally possible apart from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, one must conclude regeneration prior to repentance and saving faith is not possible either.
There is no logical sense in which Bob draws this conclusion. The case is that we have the testimony Scripture that John was regenerated in the womb. Bob has simply failed to read the Scripture.
The lost are not regenerated so they may then repent and by faith trust Christ to be justified or saved; the unregenerate are convicted of their sin and their lost state by the work of the Holy Spirit through the proclamation of the gospel and through believing and repentance, they by faith in the person and the promises of God are converted and justified and receive right standing before God when the Holy Spirit takes up residence in their hearts.
Bob’s redundant assertion, I suppose, he hopes will carry his argument. Is he equating justification with being saved? But as we have seen, being saved is far more expansive than a one time event. Above it has been shown that an unbelieving heart is not convicted of anything. It hates the word of God, it cannot submit to it, it cannot please God. It, as the BF&M correctly affirms, must be changed. It is the Holy Spirit which works through conviction. But that is both the knowledge of God and of sin in truth. And Paul is clear that the man without the Spirit has no knowledge is a spiritual sense of anything pertaining to the promises of God. A man without the Spirit does not comprehend the things of God, because he cannot judge right from wrong. It is only the spiritual man who can,
Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. 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. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.(1 Corinthians 2:12-15 ).
If there is one thing we can be sure of, it is that we must be spiritual, that is born of God having been given the Spirit, before we can understand spiritual truths interpreted to us (i.e., the Gospel, 1 Cor 2:1-5).
This is the clear position presented in Scripture.