DOES FIRST JOHN 5:1 TEACH AN "ORDER"
TO THE NEW BIRTH, OR REGENERATION? [04/14/04]
It is argued by
James White in his books that I John 5:1 teaches that there is
"pre-faith" New Birth, or Regeneration, to the effect that the new birth
precedes believing. On the other side are Dave Hunt and Norman
Geisler with the idea that faith precedes the new birth.
these views, we believe, are in conflict with our orthodox Confessions of Faith
and of course with what we understand is taught in Scripture.
John 5:1 reads:
"Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is
born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is
begotten of him."
The most evident truth of this verse is that
faith and the New Birth are CO-EXISTENT, where there is one there is the
other. They are somewhat like life itself: were there is life, there is
breath; and where there is breath, there is life.
Since the person who
believes in Christ is born of God, or has been born of God, then
conversely the person who does not believe is not and has not been born
The believer is born of God.
The unbeliever is not born of
There is no "middle ground," no "in-between" state, no
"half-dead, half-alive" condition, so far as this passage is concerned.
Believing is simply presented here as the "living proof" or evidence that one
is, or has been, born of God. Conversely, no faith in Christ equals no new
birth. It is just as simple as that.
The verse does not deal at all with
an alleged "sequence" or "order" of actions, as is advocated by James White and
some others. That is not even the obvious intention of the writer, John, for he
is not trying to convince his readers about what some zealous analysts call the
"ordo salutis." John, of all the New Testament writers, emphasizes the
important necessity of faith in regard to salvation (John 20:31), that
one who believes has life and the one who does not believe does not have life.
John does not deal in this verse (5:1) with the matter of the
"means," or "how" this faith comes about, or is experienced. From
other passages, however, we know that "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by
the Word of God" (Romans 10:17). Faith presupposes an object of
faith, and that is presented thru the Word of God.
We also know that
faith not only comes by hearing the Word of God, but that Word is made
effectual by the accompanying "power" of the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians
1:5). This is why and how faith is created, by the Word and the Spirit, and when
faith is born in a person then that person has experienced the New Birth, or
regeneration. Until that faith in Christ is existent, the New Birth has not
Faith is not some type of "gift" that has not object, or
that comes via an alleged "direct operation" of the Spirit apart from the
accompaniment of the means necessary to create faith.
preliminary, preparatory, or prevenient work the Holy Spirit may do does not
constitute the New Birth. John does not say, "Whoever is convicted is born of
God," or "whosoever has been enlightened has been born of God," or
"whosoever is concerned is born of God," or "whosoever is sensible of
his sins is born of God" -- no, he simply says "whosoever believes is
born of God."
James White tries to justify his faulty interpretation by
comparing 1 John 5:1 to 1 John 2:29 where John says that "every one that
doeth righteousness is born of him."
But James fails to note the
fact that the very first act of righteousness that a person does is to
believe in Christ. "And this is his commandment, That we should believe
on the name of his Son Jesus Christ" (1 John 3:22). This is what Paul told the
jailer to do in Acts 16:31. This is the work of God, that you believe on
Him whom He hath sent (John
6:29). The very first commandment is summed up
as love for God, and faith incorporates that love, for "faith worketh
by love" (Galatians 5:6). Love is shed abroad in the heart by the Holy
Spirit (Romans 5:5), and love has as its object the Lord Jesus, and the one who
loves is born of God (1 John 4:7).
How could one be "born again" before
he has love for and faith in Christ created in him by the power of
the Word of God and Holy Spirit?
The idea that James White tries to prove
is that in the New Birth there is an order whereby one who HAS NOT YET BELIEVED
"has been born of God," and then after being supposedly born of God he is
thereby given "ability" to perform the act of faith in Christ. He claims that
"birth precedes . . . faith" (The Potter's Freedom, page 288). What kind
of "new birth" is it that lacks love for Christ and faith in Christ?
are nowhere taught in Scripture that such a birth devoid of love and faith
precedes faith. Actually, may we not say that faith itself has a "birth," being
born by the Word and power of the Holy Spirit? -- Bob L. Ross
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